Police cars are among the city's 400 vehicles that use fossil fuels.

Whatever pain you’re feeling at the pump these days, the City of Evanston’s pain is about 400 times greater.

That’s the approximate numbers of cars and trucks the city has to fill with fossil fuels, so they can respond to crimes, fires, trees down from wind storms and all sorts of other municipal functions.

And just as you’re digging deeper into the wallet to fill the good old (or new) SUV, the city is also dealing with higher prices, in part due to the war in Ukraine, and in part due to supply and demand … with Americans getting back on the road, COVID pandemic or not.

Higher demand and lower supply, of course, lead to higher prices.

One advantage Evanston has as a city that residents do not have, is that you can’t band together with your neighbors in a purchasing collective to keep prices somewhat lower.

City spokesperson Patrick Deignan tells Evanston Now that the city buys fuel through a contract awarded by the Suburban Purchasing Cooperative, “a joint purchasing program for municipal participants.”

The weekly price, Deignan says, is based on a computation from what’s called the Oil Price Information Service. The bidder who gets the municipal contract is also provided an amount for profit/overhead.

The city uses different types of fuel, all of which, Deignan says, have increased in price since early 2022.

As of April 7, for unleaded 87 octane, the city was paying $2.91 per gallon. By comparison, the January 24, 2022 price was $2.28.

For diesel fuel, with a delivery date of March 7, the per gallon price was $3.69. On February 8, 2022 it was $2.84.

And for bio-diesel, again as of March 7, the cost was $3.72 per gallon. The February 8, 2022 price was $2.84.

Deignan says “there are many variables that could impact the price of gas and diesel,” so the city does not have a projection for future price fluctuations.

However, he adds that “if gas prices continue to be elevated or rise even higher, it is a possibility” that the city will exceed the $750,000 budgeted for fuel this year — the same amount that it budgeted for 2021.

Deignan says the city builds in some room in the fuel fund for cost increases, and last year’s fuel spending came in about $82,000 under budget.

If fuel costs go over budget this year, the city would have to transfer money from another part of the budget to cover the shortfall.

Your personal fuel budget may go way over what you had anticipated. According to AAA, the current price for a gallon of regular gas in the Chicago metropolitan area is $4.54 per gallon, and $4.98 for diesel.

Maybe it’s time for you and your neighbors to work on a purchasing cooperative after all.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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