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Archive for Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Pricey pizza, canceled trips - fuel crisis trickles down to kids

September 13, 2005

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— The adults in your life are probably really cranky right now about having to pay more than $3 per gallon for gas.

This time last year, a gallon of regular gas in the Washington area was $1.89. Today, at about $3.25 a gallon, it costs about $50 to fill a 15-gallon tank, compared with less than $30 last year.

Soon, kids may be doing their own griping about rising gas prices because the problem is affecting schools. In Fairfax County, Va., for instance, school lunch prices are 20 cents higher than last year, partly because of rising fuel costs.

What's gas got to do with your slice of pizza?

Trucks bring that frozen pizza from the place it's made to your school cafeteria. Those trucks run on diesel fuel, which also has gotten more expensive. Since the school has to pay more for food, you are charged more.

Elsewhere in the country, kids are feeling the effects of rising fuel costs in other ways.

One North Carolina school district has canceled field trips for the year and cut back on using buses for sporting events. Newport News, Va., is cutting bus routes, meaning that kids will have to walk farther to get to bus stops. In Colorado, some school bus drivers have been told to spend less time warming up the buses, which could mean chillier bus rides on winter mornings.

Kids may soon be doing their own griping about rising gas prices, because the problem is affecting schools. One North Carolina school district has canceled field trips, and Newport News, Va., is cutting bus routes. Here, kids take buses to school in Howard County, Md.

Kids may soon be doing their own griping about rising gas prices, because the problem is affecting schools. One North Carolina school district has canceled field trips, and Newport News, Va., is cutting bus routes. Here, kids take buses to school in Howard County, Md.

"We're going to have to find an extra $1.2 million for fuel," said Linda Farbry, head of transportation for Fairfax County Public Schools.

Cutting programs or hiking lunch costs seemed outrageous to Jo'Juan Dew, 9, a fifth-grader at a Landover, Md., elementary school. "Why do kids have to pay for gas?" Jo'Juan asked last week. It would be terrible if school officials canceled field trips, he said.

If cafeteria prices went up, "I would probably freak out and start bringing my lunch," said sixth-grader Shaquille Christian, 11, who buys lunch with allowance money.

"Why are these gas prices going up, anyway?" asked Isis Jones, 11.

Countries that once were poor - including China and India - are getting richer, so people there are buying cars, expanding buildings and needing more gasoline than ever. But the supply of oil that gets turned into gas is being pinched, in part because one of the world's largest oil producers, Iraq, is a country in chaos.

When the demand for gasoline is greater than the supply, prices go up.

Hurricane Katrina made a bad situation worse. About a third of the oil that the United States produces comes through the storm-ravaged Gulf of Mexico. But many of the oil rigs in the gulf and the large factories that turn oil into gasoline, called refineries, have been shut down by the storm.

Meanwhile, as fuel prices stay sky-high, school is not the only place where kids feel the impact. Austin Dorsey, 10, said the extra cost of gas means money troubles for his parents: "It's one of the reasons my mom has to work overtime."

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