NAPLES — If gas prices hit $5 per gallon as an oil expert predicts, Doug Davidson’s business could under. Davidson, along with his son, owns the Brookside Marina Boat Rentals on Davis Boulevard and two years ago, the business took a big hit when gas prices suddenly shot up.
“We probably lost 25 percent of our business,” Davidson said after gas prices spiked $4 a gallon. “When you have to make a decision, put gas in your car, or go boating, you don’t go boating.”
The former president of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister, recently said in a Sunday interview with Platt Energy Week Television that gas prices could hit $5 a gallon by 2012.
In the past year, gas prices have rose 40 cents (from $2.69 to $3.09) in the Fort Myers/Cape Corals area, according to DailyFuelGauge.com. The 15 percent increase would cause gas prices to creep toward $4 a gallon by the end of 2011 and short of Hofmeister’s prediction.
Hofmeister’s drastic gas price prediction surprised many in the Naples area, and has left some uncertain of how they will cope with such a steep price increase.
But some experts say the forecast might not be so dire.
“In 2012, we will probably hit $4, but not likely $5,” said Jessica Brady, AAA Club South public relations manager.
Inflated gas prices, combined with bad economy, would have an even bigger effect on business, Davidson, 46, said. He also said an increase to $5 a gallon could potentially close down his business completely. But he remains optimistic about his business’ future.
Today, all of Davidson’s eight boats are tied up and docked. Business is a lot slower than in years past.
“I’ve had 10 customers today. That’s way off,” Davidson said, looking out at an empty water way. “I usually have triple that.”
With an average of between 20 to 25 gallons to fill up each boat, and an average of $100 per fill up, renting a boat is already an expensive proposition. The average renter at Brookside will use between 8 to 10 gallons of gas per trip.
Filling a boat with gas can be more expensive than a car or truck. Davidson said, boats take non-ethanol gas, which can cost a dollar more than gas for other automobiles.
So if drivers had to pay $5 a gallon, boaters would pay $6 a gallon, according to Davidson.
“I don’t like seeing people pay more for gas, because it does affect us,” Davidson said.
High gas prices will affect drivers as well. Drivers like Rebecca McGuire.
“I would definitely look for a different job,” McGuire said if gas prices ever hit the predicted mark.
But McGuire doesn’t see it ever coming to that. Working with the Children Homes Society of Florida for a decade, McGuire has built up her credibility with her employer. This allows her to be flexible with her work schedule if gas prices hit $5 a gallon.
She drives nearly 300 miles a day, five days a week, from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers, and back. Earning more than $120,000 annually as the executive of a children’s advocate organization, she has a lot of disposable income. But an increase to $5 a gallon would cause her to re-evaluate her work situation.
“I’d consider working maybe 3 or 4 days a week versus 4 or 5,” said McGuire, 45.
Traditionally, fuel prices fall in January and February because of low oil demand –typically a 300,000 to 400,000 drop in daily barrel demand.
With gas prices constantly fluctuating throughout the year, Brady cautions consumers not to panic too much about the $5 a gallon projection.
“There are so many different variables that come into play that affect gas prices,” Brady said. “It’s kind of a wait and see game.”