Fueling Up Is Getting Harder As Gas Stations Close Across U.S.

HEWLETT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — America’s fuel consumption is dropping, and so are the places to fill up.

So what’s causing the disappearance of gas stations across the country? CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan was in Hewlett on Long Island to get some insight.

“There used to be a gas station on every corner in America. Today it’s a bank,” said Gene Spelman, who owns a gas station in New Hyde Park.

Spelman has operated his Gulf station on the same corner for 35 years, and — as part of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association — has seen dramatic changes over the years.

More than 100 years after America’s first retail gasoline station opened, the National Petroleum News reports that America’s 160,000 gas stations are slowly receding from the landscape.

Every day three or four close up shop — an 8 percent decline in recent years, McLogan reported.

Some blame the closures on environmental regulations.

“Thirty years ago, a tank replacement cost was probably about $50,000. Today, a tank replacement can go a quarter to a half a million dollars,” Spelman said.

The government now requires secure gas tanks, which can be too costly for many mom and pop owners, McLogan reported.

Mom and pop stations also now have to compete with retailers like Costco, Walmart and BJ’s that can sell gas at a lower price.

Additionally, the recession has meant fewer young Americans are driving cars.

“I think the gas stations will do just fine without me. I think I must support my athletic heart,” said bicyclist Elliot Master.

Master said he’s switched to a bike and many of his friends rely on buses and trains.

The Department of Energy reported that the number of miles driven by vehicles peaked in 2008. Since then there has been a steady decline of 3 percent.

And hybrid, electric, natural gas-powered vehicles are using much less gasoline or none at all.

U.S. gas consumption peaked in 2007, nearly 3.5 billion barrels. Since then, there has been a steady decline by 6 percent, McLogan reported.

So without dueling corner gas station competition, some consumers worry about gas prices.

“We find that the more gas stations on each corner, the better the competition, the lower the price,” said

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has issued regulations that will require the average new car sold in 2025 to provide 54.4 miles to the gallon.

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