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Thursday, July 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 56.0° F  Fair
The Paper


Pain at the pump
Madison-area commuters will feel the pinch

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Credit:David Michael Miller
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The price for a barrel of crude hit $111 last week, and a gallon of regular unleaded gas was averaging about $3.29 in Madison over the weekend. This won't come as news if you've pumped $50 into your Subaru in recent days. That's about 30% more than it would have taken to fill the same tank one year ago.

You may also have heard that a number of forecasters have been predicting a price of $4 per gallon for later this spring. Depending on the size of your tank, that could amount to another $10 or $20 more every time you fuel up.

Thinking in terms of one tank at a time is painful enough. Have you thought about what this means to your monthly budget? The mathematics trolls who live under the You Are Here columnist's desk got to wondering, and they've been doing calculations.

Starting from the premise that last spring's prices for regular unleaded were averaging about $2.80 per gallon in Madison, through April, before spiking to $3.40 in late May, they decided to figure out how $4 per gallon would compare to $3 in terms of your monthly commute to and from work. Never mind driving your little darlings to school, the playground or dog park. Never mind everything else, like vehicle maintenance and depreciation, or what this will do to food and retail prices.

There are, on average, 21 commuting days per month. The You Are Here math trolls have calculated how much it costs per month, at $3 and $4 per gallon, to drive 20, 25, 30, 40 and 50 miles to and from work in vehicles that get 19, 23 and 29 miles per gallon.

They picked those fuel-efficiency figures because math trolls are fond of prime numbers, but also because they browsed fuel-efficiency ratings for several vehicle classes in a handful of recent model years and decided 19, 23 and 29 mpg were suitable approximations to represent the vast middle ground for vehicles of reasonable vintage, and because - let's face it - many of us do not keep our tires inflated to the pressure recommended for optimum performance, and we drive like maniacs around here when we're not idling on a major artery in stalled rush-hour traffic.

Your actual results may vary. Then again, they might not. Or they might not vary enough to make much of a difference as the rising price of gas stands to make on how much it costs to drive to and from work.

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