Dip in Gas Prices Helps Consumers, Hurts Investors Gasoline prices have fallen more than 20 percent. And natural gas is selling for less than half what it cost a year ago. But that doesn't mean everyone is benefitting equally from the abrupt reversal.
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Dip in Gas Prices Helps Consumers, Hurts Investors

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Dip in Gas Prices Helps Consumers, Hurts Investors

Dip in Gas Prices Helps Consumers, Hurts Investors

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Cheaper energy is a windfall for most consumers, but not everyone is celebrating. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Unidentified Woman (Hostess): Two? Okay.

HORSLEY: The nation's biggest casual restaurant chain says it lost five to six percent of its customers in June and July, when gasoline prices were at their peak. Now that pump prices are coming down again, restaurant consultant Malcolm Knapp thinks those middle-income customers will be coming back.

MALCOLM KNAPP: It's the median incomes, say $43,000 to $60,000 range, that - a lot of them have SUVs, and that's wroth $80 to $100 a month with the drop that we've just experienced. So you can actually go out and buy something with that.

HORSLEY: By contrast, Knapp says customers at high-end restaurants barely blinked when gasoline prices soared. And even though gas prices have moderated, people at the lower end of the income scale are still wary of going out to eat.

KNAPP: They're very nervous about is this a short-term phenomenon? Is this a longer-term phenomenon? They're not sure.

HORSLEY: Jack Gerard heads the American Chemistry Council, whose members are heavily dependent on oil and natural gas.

JACK GERARD: Beyond just using it for heat and power, we use it to make products. So we take natural gas or oil and we turn it into things like plastics that we use everyday, the medicines in the pharmaceutical industry, fabrics in our clothing. So we're very energy sensitive.

HORSLEY: Airlines are also flying a little higher now, says aviation economist David Swearinga, thanks to the falling cost of jet fuel.

DAVID SWEARINGA: The airlines consume 19 billion gallons of jet fuel every year, and every penny change in the price is a $190 million reduction in their costs.

HORSLEY: San Diego County's pension fund lost much of the $175 million it invested in Amaranth. That drew a scolding from taxpayer advocate Lani Lutar when the retirement board met last week.

LANI LUTAR: Private investors can play all they want with hedge funds, but public money should not be used for gambling.

HORSLEY: Scott Horsley, NPR News.

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