Students search for ways to save cash on gas

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    By Mark Brinkerhoff

    With gas prices soaring, people are looking for ways to save money at the pump. Cash-strapped BYU students are no exception.

    Attracted by a sign offering gasoline at a good price, Erik Nyholm, 21, a sophmore from Livermore, Calif., majoring in manufacturing engineering, stopped at a local gas station to fill his car.

    When he went inside to pay, he said he was surprised to find out it was 10 cents more per gallon than he expected.

    One of the ways to save money at the pump is to understand the different prices and grades of gasoline.

    Most people know them by their commercial names: regular unleaded, super unleaded and premium. But these grades, or octanes, are also associated with numbers. The higher the number the higher the cost.

    BYU professor William Hecker of the Chemical Engineering Department said the cost of higher-octane gasoline is easily explained.

    “The extra cost is legitimate because there are a lot of refinery processes that cost money,” Hecker said.

    There are also benefits associated to the cost of higher-octane gasoline, he said.

    For one, it makes a car run smoother and longer, Hecker said.

    However not all people believe the benefits outweigh the cost.

    “You can pay more for higher octane,” said BYU professor of economics Norman Thurston. “From what I hear you don’t get more out of it.”

    Thurston said there are other ways to save money on gasoline.

    “Use alternative forms of transportation,” he said. “It makes a lot of sense to walk, ride a bike, or carpool.”

    Thurston said students should pay attention to what cars they’re driving.

    Big cars like sport utility vehicles are notorious gas-guzzlers, he said.

    He said students should regularly maintain their cars and keep tires properly inflated, especially when temperatures fall. This will ultimately save money.

    In spite of high gas prices, he said it is a matter of perspective.

    “One of the myths is that gasoline is at an all time high,” Thurston said. “It’s not that bad if adjusted for inflation.”

    Inflation and taxes cause prices to rise over time; but people are also making more money and driving less fuel-efficient cars than ever before, he said.

    Prices are seasonal and vary from state to state, Thurston said. They tend to rise faster during the summer months and holidays.

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