Pain at the pump - some feel travel is declining as gas prices soar
WORTHINGTON -- After a winter of fairly steady prices, the cost of a gallon of gas has jumped as the Memorial Day holiday nears.
General Manager at Bob and Steve's Shell Jesse Raudenbush said Friday that prices rose "close to 50 cents in less than a week."
"It sounds like its affected a lot of people's travel plans," he said. "A lot of people are staying around home when maybe they wouldn't have otherwise."
The Casey's General Store location on U.S. 59 near Interstate 90 has seen a steady stream of customers, assistant manager Carrie Helms said. But while people are still completing their necessary travel they need to, they seem to be reducing the extra road time that tends to increase as summer approaches.
"They aren't really extending very much," she said. "They are doing what they need to, and that's about it."
With the construction of Minnesota 60, Helms said it's hard to tell if gas prices have affected business. She did note, however, a decrease in the amount of convenience store products sold.
"As far as the gas aspect, it's a little harder for us to tell, but I would say that they are cutting back on what they buy as far as the inside stuff," she said. "It gets expensive. If they spend $80 at the pump, they can't afford to spend $20 in here."
Many of Helms' customers have blamed the government for the sudden jump in prices, especially after two refineries were recently closed.
"Nothing like our government telling us to stay home," she said, "Because, you know, they control everything. They want to peak the economy, but how do you peak the economy when you jump it 50 cents in a week -- that's what I hear a lot."
While most drivers are frustrated at the gas prices, many diesel customers are happy to finally be paying less than their regular gas counterparts.
"Diesel is cheaper than buying gas right now," she said. "On the other hand, they say that's how it should be because diesel is the first one off the line -- there is less refining. Diesel hasn't been lower than gas for years."
Compared to the national average of $3.65, Minnesota's average price for regular gasoline was $4.17 a gallon on Friday -- third-highest in the nation, preceded only by North Dakota and Hawaii according to the AAA website, which uses the same data as the government to show gas trends and prices across the U.S.
A year ago, the state's average price for regular was $3.58 a gallon.
South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee have the lowest state gas averages All are under $3.30 a gallon.
Worthington resident Jill Lutterman admitted the inflated gas prices have affected some of her travel plans and said she is glad to be staying in town this weekend.
"It affects everyone to a certain extent," she said. I don't go out of town a lot, so it doesn't affect me as an individual as it might some people."
Brian LeKuyer, of Columbus, Neb., filled up Friday in Worthington on his way to Rochester to visit his father. He said he has found prices to be consistently high through the Midwest. While the prices have been unpleasant, they didn't affect his travel plans -- "other than making it cost more," he said.
"I've got my dad in Rochester, and we had plans to go so, we don't get up this way that often and decided to take advantage of the long weekend," he said.
Brenda Boje, manager of the C-Store at Travel Plaza, said that while their gas prices dropped 10 cents Friday morning, there were still many customers wondering why costs are so elevated.
"Folks are complaining, but it seems like if they have made plans, they are going to go anyway," she said.
Whether people are staying home this weekend or traveling in spite of the higher costs, many are unhappy with paying more at the pump.
"It puts everyone in a bad mood. It's hard to keep customers happy when you have that working against you," Raudenbush said.
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.