News Column

Gas Prices Expected to Stay High

May 20, 2013

As gas prices in the Midwest soar toward record highs, people are turning to their smartphones to find the cheapest gas on the go. Some of the most popular: •Gas Buddy: This free app, available on Android and Apple devices, shows users the lowest- price gas in their desired area. Users who report gas prices also can be eligible for points toward prize giveaways. •Gas Mileage Calculators: Available on Android and Apple devices, there are several free apps to help drivers figure out their car's gas mileage and cost per mile -- including Gas Cubby and MPG for Free. •Navigation systems such as VZ Navigator, updated every 60 seconds using 1.8 billion traffic probes, offer turn-by-turn traffic and detours, helping drivers discover the most efficient ways to get to their destinations, avoiding wasted fuel usage. Gas prices in Dubuque are hovering near the $4 per gallon mark and aren't expected to drop anytime soon.

The ethanol-10 blend was $3.89 and $3.99 at most stations Friday, according to

The statewide average was $3.87 for regular fuel on Friday, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. The Illinois average was $3.99 and Wisconsin was $3.85, the report said.

Dubuque driver Bill Slaght said he hears a lot of complaints about gas prices and understands why.

"I go out of town about once or twice a week, so I spend quite a bit of money on gas," he said while fueling his car. "It would be great if they could come down a little bit."

And Dubuque is not alone; fuel costs are on the rise throughout the Midwest.

Two Midwest refineries are closed for routine maintenance and are expected to stay closed for longer than normal, impacting the supply and the cost at the pump, according to the American Automobile Association.

AAA spokesperson Gail Weinholzer said two Midwest refineries in the Chicagoland area - one Exxon, one BP - have closed for routine maintenance, switching winter-grade fuel over to summer-grade.

The switch is mandated by federal clean air laws, which require refineries to sell a lower-volatility gasoline from June 1 to Sept. 15, according to the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa, a nonprofit state trade organization.

What's not routine is the length of time the refineries are expected to be closed. Both shut down earlier this spring for maintenance and neither expect to open up by Memorial Day, one of the nation's heaviest travel weekends. Weinholzer said the two Midwest refineries are expected to open sometime between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

It takes anywhere from days to weeks to get back to full production once they are open again, so Iowa likely won't see a significant break in gas prices for weeks, according to Weinholzer.

The refinery maintenance is drastically reducing production, and a higher proportion of gasoline is being directed to the more populated Great Lakes region, according to a statement from the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores.

The organization also reported that an Oklahoma refinery that is a key source of Midwest fuel recently announced plans to reduce some production.

"Nobody likes higher gas prices. Retailers dislike high prices as much, if not more, than the consumer. After all, higher prices mean less demand and fewer sales," said Dawn Carlson, president of the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa, in a news release.

Corey Ellerbach agreed.

Ellerbach's Dubuque landscaping business requires quite a bit of driving, and rising gas prices threaten profits.

"We spend probably right around $100 to $130 per fleet per week easily, sometimes up to $200, $300 a week per fleet, and I usually run two or three of them, so the more money that gas is, the less money that I make, I guess," he said.

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Source: Copyright Telegraph-Herald (Dubuque, IA) 2013. Distributed by MCT Information Services

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