Refinery problems, oil spill drive up gas prices in Great Lakes regionNorthland motorists are feeling the pinch from a combination of factors driving up gas prices throughout the Great Lakes region.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Northland motorists are feeling the pinch from a combination of factors driving up gas prices throughout the Great Lakes region.
GasBuddy.com petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan said Friday that several Great Lakes states have seen prices surge about 40 cents per gallon in the past week. That follows a pipeline rupture and shutdown in Wisconsin and equipment problems at refineries in Indiana and Illinois. The good news is that prices should begin to drop during the next few weeks, DeHaan said. It typically takes only a week or so to make refinery repairs, and the pressure on prices should begin to ease after that.
“The reaction we’re seeing in gas prices, you’d think Iran just tried to close the Strait of Hormuz,” said DeHaan, referring to the Persian Gulf route for one-fifth of the world’s oil. “Just the possibility of a shortage spooks the market.”
The national average price for a gallon of unleaded moved up just 8 cents over the week to $3.56.
“The rest of the country has seen an increase, but nothing like here in the Midwest,” said Pam Moen, a spokeswoman for AAA Wisconsin. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen prices move this much in a couple of days.”
Drivers noticed gas prices jumped from 11 to 13 cents per gallon across much of the Northland on Thursday.
Prices at most Duluth stations were $3.74 on Friday, with a few at $3.79, according to GasBuddy.com. All of the Superior stations listed online were at $3.75. The lowest prices in the region appeared to be at the B&B Market in Cloquet and a Spur station in Hibbing, both at $3.56.
Prices were higher to the east, ranging from $3.79 to $3.99 in Hurley, Wis., and at $4.09 and $4.10 in Ironwood, Mich.
Across the larger region, Illinois has experienced the biggest price jump, from a statewide average of $3.61 a week ago to $4.05 on Friday.
It’s not surprising that Illinois has been hard hit, said David Podratz, refinery manager for Calumet Superior. That’s because of the rupture on Enbridge’s Line 14 near Grand Marsh, Wis., on July 27, Podratz said. The spill occurred beyond the Northland, so it didn’t affect this region, but it did affect Illinois, he said.
“From our standpoint, it doesn’t cause us any issues in getting crude oil this far,” Podratz said.
But the Northland is affected by the refinery issues in Indiana and Illinois, he said, because “it’s all one big interconnected market.”
A price guide for the entire Midwest showed the overall gas price rose
12 cents between Tuesday and Thursday, Podratz said, reflecting what consumers have seen in local markets.
Motorists in the most impacted communities greeted the news with a mixture of resent and resignation.
“Ridiculous,” Tim Meinke of Central Lake, Mich., said as he pumped $73 worth of gas into his SUV at a station in northern Michigan’s Traverse City on Friday. Unleaded regular there was going for $3.94.
Jack Rarick, a 57-year-old high school football coach from Holt, Mich., shrugged off spending $65 to fill his SUV at the same station.
“I’m not going to be upset. I’m going to pay it and move on,” he said. “Gas is probably too cheap. Gas probably needs to be $6 a gallon if we’re ever going to change the way we do things.”
Associated Press writers Todd Richmond in Madison and John Flesher in Traverse City, Mich., contributed to this report.