By ERIN MAYES
With gas prices rising almost daily, some Sonorans say they feel like they're being pumped for all they're worth.
According to AAA of Northern California, they might not be too far from the truth.
All of Northern California's cities are averaging $2.10 a gallon for regular, unleaded gas, the association's Mar. 11 report said.
A drive up Highway 108 reveals prices starting at $2.11.
"It just comes right out of our bottom line our family income," said Rusty Wallace of Sonora, as he filled up his '76 Jeep at the Fuel Stop on the highway at Phoenix Lake Road. "What can you do? You're stuck. In this life, you've just got to take it on the chin."
Karen Ankele, an employee at the Fuel Stop, said she hears complaints about the gas prices every day, but neither she nor owner David Polanzo have control of how much gas costs.
"Basically, it's ridiculous and they're being gouged," Ankele said. "I come in in the mornings, and there's a note that says 'Change the prices,' so we do. And we get a lot of flak."
Prices at the Fuel Stop have gone up seven times in the last two weeks, Ankele said.
Polanzo, the owner, estimated costs have gone up 65 cents in the last three months.
"I'm the one on the front line, taking all the heat for it," he said.
Although Polanzo and other gas station owners set prices, he said they are simply passing on what is dealt to them high prices from suppliers.
The possibility of war with Iraq and a diminished supply of gasoline have driven the crude oil prices up, according to the AAA report. But some consumers say they find that difficult to swallow.
"It's an excuse for the people in power to take advantage of the poor people," Wallace said. "I really believe this is all manufactured."