March 30 marked the 38th straight day that the national average price of gasoline has fallen, according to GasBuddy, a national organization that tracks gas prices at 150,000 stations multiple times each day. On that day, the national average was $1.97 per gallon.
This means that the national average is “under $2 per gallon for the first time in over four years as motorists park their cars and shelter in place, leading to an unprecedented drop never before seen in U.S. gasoline demand, causing prices to sink like a rock," said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.
“Motorists should continue to be vigilant if they need to fill their tanks,” DeHann said. “Bring hand sanitizer and potentially wipes, but also shop around as the gap between stations widens to historic levels.”
In Minnesota on March 30, the average price was $1.81 with the lowest price in the state at $1.09 and the highest price at $2.29. In Wisconsin, the average price was $1.59 with the lowest price at $0.79 and the highest at $2.69.
One year ago, the Minnesota average price for a gallon of gas was $2.62, and in Wisconsin, the average was $2.69. In contrast, on March 30, 2012, the average price in Minnesota was $3.74 and the average in Wisconsin was $4.00.
“We have 10 states already that have a state average of $1.75 or less,” said Mark Peterson of AAA Minnesota-Iowa. He expects more states to join that list.
There are several reasons why gas prices are dropping. In addition to the stay-in-place orders, “Saudi Arabia and Russia are having a crude oil price war,” Peterson said. “Then you have the changeover from winter blend to summer blend. With less people getting out and driving, there is an abundance of winter blend as we move forward. There are a number of factors that come into play here. All of them are good for the consumer. It’s going to be pretty cheap for awhile.”
Mike Wilson of Wilson Oil in Red Wing said the difference for local gas stations is how fast they are selling gas. Locations that sell gas slowly paid higher prices a week or two ago and are now having to sell it at lower prices.
“A lot of stations in the city are 70 cents higher, because they are not moving their inventory quick enough,” Wilson said. “We get a load in every day, so we are following the market down. That’s why we can adjust so quickly.”
The problem for Wilson will come when the prices go back up. He will pay higher prices every time the cost goes up, but stations who sell less gas will be selling the lower priced gas for several days before having to pay higher prices.
“It’s so volatile,” Wilson said. “When this virus settles down, gas prices are going to shoot right back up like a rocket. Crude oil dipped under $20 a barrel last night. That affects the whole economy. Everybody should enjoy it while they can, because it is going to be short lived.”
Even with more people staying home, Wilson had one of his busiest days ever last week. He said the low prices and people just wanting to make sure they had gas might have been the reasons.
“People are getting nervous. People are out of work. They just can’t believe they can fill their gas tank for $20,” Wilson said. “It might be the only good thing going on right now.”
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