For Richard Pheasant, the escalating price of gasoline means that he has to cut back a little.

“You basically have to take the money that you use to buy other things and set it aside for gas,” Pheasant said.

That means buying less snacks when he fills up. On Tuesday, he put $15 worth of unleaded gas in his Chevy Monte Carlo at $2.79 a gallon. That’s just a little more than five gallons of gas.

The good news is that Marion County’s gas prices are lower than the state and even the national average. On Tuesday, the West Virginia average hit $2.86, while the nation hovered around the $2.90 mark.

Of the dozen or so stations polled, Marion County’s average is about $2.80.

For Lena Catania of Barrackville, gas prices are constantly on her mind.

“It gets pretty expensive, especially when you have two kids and you have to buy diapers,” she explained.

Catania has a 2-year-old and a newborn, which means frequent trips to the store and the pediatrician’s office. To top it off, she’s looking for a new job, which means even more trips by car.

Her solution — drive less and conserve gas.

For a little fun, check out www.westvirginiagasprices.com, which relies on consumers to give the high and low prices for gas per gallon. The site is updated daily.

But be careful. Don’t check out the section of the site where it lists the average prices for West Virginia and, specifically, where it lists the cost of a gallon of gas one year ago. The news is liable to depress you.

In June 2005, gas was going for $2.14 a gallon. Today, West Virginians are paying on average $2.86 — which is 72 cents higher. According to a little rough math, if the average gas tank holds 12 gallons, consumers are paying $8.64 more for every fill up.

Although it might seem tempting, the gasoline “drive-off” isn’t an option. In West Virginia, the failure to pay for gasoline is considered misdemeanor larceny. On top of that, a second conviction on the charge may lead to the offender losing his license for up to six months. After the third time, he’ll be walking for a year.

According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, gasoline theft costs the industry more than $112 million per year. The report says that the average convenience store experiences two to three drive-offs per week, but as gas prices spike, the number sometimes raises to two to three a day.

“Gasoline theft is not a ‘Robin Hood’ crime of robbing the rich — retailers typically make pennies a gallon on the sale of gasoline,” the report reads. “In fact, they can often make as much, or more, from the sale of a 12-ounce cup of coffee than a 12-gallon fill-up.”

There are some simple solutions to rising gas prices. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that just by driving the speed limit, consumers can save up to 67 cents per gallon. Driving sensibly can also improve gas mileage, as speeding, rapid braking and slamming on the gas pedal can lower fuel economy by 33 percent.

Keeping a car tuned properly is also a way to save on gas. A clogged filter can reduce fuel efficiency by 10 percent, or 29 cents per gallon.

For more information, log on to www.fueleconomy.gov.

E-mail Misty Poe at mpoe@timeswv.com.

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