Gas prices higher across southern Minnesota than Fourth of July holiday last year

Published 7:53 am Friday, July 4, 2014

By Al Strain, Owatonna People’s Press

OWATONNA — With political problems in the Middle East, motorists across America — including the ones in southern Minnesota — are paying more at the pump approaching this Fourth of July holiday.

Gail Weinholzer, spokesperson for the American Automobile Association, said prices are currently higher because of tensions in Iraq, one of the largest exporters of crude oil.

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“The Minnesota statewide average is $3.59. A year ago, it was $3.38,” Weinholzer said. “Crude oil prices have risen from $102 a barrel about three weeks ago to about $106 per barrel due to the political unrest in Iraq.”

Minnesota is still below the national average for a gallon of gas, which sat at $3.67 on Tuesday.

Gas prices in Steele County were below the state average on Tuesday. In Owatonna, prices were at $3.55 per gallon, which is about 15 cents higher than at this time a year ago.

In Medford, prices were also at $3.55 per gallon on Tuesday, while Blooming Prairie and Ellendale both had averages of $3.62. In Austin, prices averaged $3.54 Wednesday.

In Rice County, gas prices in Faribault, Lonsdale and Northfield were all higher than last year. Prices ranged from $3.52 in Lonsdale to $3.61 in Faribault on Tuesday.

Communities in the Minnesota River Valley were also at least 15 cents higher than this time last year. Waseca and Le Sueur pumps were priced at an average of $3.59 per gallon while Le Center’s average was $3.60. St. Peter tied for the highest average in the area at $3.62 per gallon.

In Goodhue County, Kenyon’s gas prices were 22 cents higher than a year ago with a price of $3.62 at the pumps.

Several people noted that the rise in gas prices wouldn’t impact their decision to travel. For some, like Amanda Burr, gas prices didn’t matter because she plans on staying home in Owatonna this weekend.

“(It) won’t impact our travel plans. We stay in town, barbecue with family (and) go to the fairgrounds to watch the fireworks,” Burr said in a Facebook post.

For other people, like Amanda Johnson, gas prices don’t really impact travel plans because they can’t be controlled.

“Is there really anything we can do about it? They know we’ll pay the higher prices if we really want to go somewhere,” Johnson said in another post.

Weinholzer said that unless there is a dramatic spike in prices — such as a 20-cent increase in a very short period of time — travelers tend to still hit the roads for the holiday.

About 41 million people will travel at least 50 miles this weekend, including 34.8 million that will do so in an automobile — the most since 2007. They will be traveling at a time when gas prices are the highest they’ve been for the Fourth of July since 2008.

“It may have a bit of an impact in that they may not go as far, they may not stay as long, they may stay with friends and family instead of a hotel. Those sorts of things are impacted,” Weinholzer said.

For Kammi Szymanski, who said the gas prices wouldn’t impact her travel plans, higher gas prices are just something consumers have to deal with now.

“I think with the way prices have been over time it hasn’t become a factor anymore, just more of a norm,” Szymanski said in a Facebook post. “We just have to deal with the idea that gas prices may never see the under $2 price per gallon.”