Answer Man: No relief in sight for high gas prices

Why are Minnesota gas prices currently so much higher than the national average? -- Wayne Odell, Rochester

They're high everywhere, really. In February, a story in the Atlantic Monthly blamed high prices nationally on the relatively strong economic growth in the U.S. and China, turmoil in the Middle East and refinery repairs, which always seems like the most ridiculous reason to me. Is refining capacity really that tight that when one plant is shut down for repairs, everyone pays more? That's what the oil companies say. A fire at a refinery in Ohio in February caused prices here to spike for weeks.

The national average per gallon Tuesday was $3.59, and in Minnesota today, it was $4.08 . According to AAA, Midwestern and Western states have been hit hardest, and it's because of tight supplies and planned refinery maintenance in the western half of the U.S. Some analysts also blame the late winter storm and flooding for disruptions.

Some news sources have said it's because two refineries in Minnesota are shut down temporarily, but that's apparently a reference to two refineries in the Chicago area instead.

Don't blame me, I'm just the messenger.


Dear Answer Man, why is Sam's Club all torn up out front? That's not related to construction for Texas Roadhouse, is it?

No, it's related to the storewide remodeling that's underway at Sam's Club, next door to Wal-Mart North at 55th Street Northwest. The 150,000-square-foot store is getting a complete makeover, which will be completed in September, and maybe the most important part of that project will be to expand the sidewalk area out front. Until now, customers walked directly out of the store into the traffic lane, basically. After the construction at the front of the store is complete in a few weeks, there'll be a genuine sidewalk and pedestrian area, which will keep everyone safer.

Texas Roadhouse, by the way, will be located in the middle of the spacious parking lot -- and I, for one, hope they have at least one stuffed armadillo in the restaurant, as they do in some others I've visited.

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