Gas war drives lowest prices in state
Northwest Rochester is enjoying a good, old-fashioned gas war, leading to long lines at some stations as people seek out the best price at the pump.
Patrick DeHaan, Gasbuddy.com 's senior petroleum analyst for the Midwest, said Rochester and Stewartville have Minnesota's lowest citywide average gas prices. Rochester averaged $2.23 per gallon on Monday, and Stewartville averaged $2.20 per gallon, although it has fewer gas stations. The price shift is dramatic given that Rochester averaged $2.33 per gallon last week and $2.62 per gallon two weeks ago, according to the American Automobile Association.
On Monday, Rochester's cheapest gas stations were only a few minutes from each other: $1.89 per gallon at Costco's gas station, $1.92 per gallon at Kwik Trip at 1990 Scott Road Northwest and $1.99 per gallon at the Holiday gas station at 3225 40th Avenue Northwest.
DeHaan said those three gas stations had the lowest gas prices in Minnesota on Monday. In fact, they were among the lowest prices in the country.
"Only one-tenth of 1 percent (of gas stations) around the country are below $2," DeHaan said.
Costco General Manager Jay Yang said his store's gas prices are unusually low because they're involved in "somewhat of a gas war" with Kwik Trip and Holiday. He said the store has a policy of trying to keep gasoline prices about 5 cents less than nearby competition. He said the other gas stations keep lowering their prices in response, driving him to further reduce the gas prices.
"I've seen a lot more traffic as a result of the gas prices," Yang said. "The customers definitely benefit out of this situation."
He said the duration of the low prices will depend on how long the other stores want to keep reducing their prices.
Nearly all of the people interviewed Monday afternoon at Costco and the nearby Kwik Trip said they had traveled farther or adjusted their schedules to take advantage of the cheap gas.
Shannon Hunt said she doesn't usually seek out cheaper prices, often not even bothering for a station that's 10 cents less.
"$1.89 is rock bottom pricing. It really brought me over here," Hunt said. "
At the Costco pump, she filled her empty tank for about $44. She said it typically takes $75 to fill, so she's seeing immediate savings.
Marilyn Broadwine said she lives in Preston but travels to Rochester three to five times a week, so she is also seeing an immediate benefit.
"What a hallelujah," Broadwine said. "It's just fabulous … I hope that it continues and goes statewide."
D' Angello Williams said he knew about Kwik Trip's prices and decided to drive several minutes out of his way to see if the ethanol pumps were also cheaper. They ethanol prices were actually higher.
"I don't (travel for prices) too often. It depends on how close it is to pay day," Williams said.
Other people adjusted their spending habits in smaller ways. Lee Johnson and Gina Miller moved up their fueling plans to Monday in case the prices rose in the near future.
DeHaan said Minnesota and California saw the fastest decreases in gas prices in the country over the last few weeks. Minnesota's statewide average is $2.49 per gallon, making it the 20th cheapest state. Comparatively, the lowest statewide average is South Carolina at $2.19 per gallon.
He said many factors go into gas pricing, and lower prices nationally can't be attributed to one cause.
But he said the drops in Minnesota and California's were due to unscheduled closures of oil refineries. He said the Pine Bend Refinery near the Twin Cities recently completed work, allowing Minnesota gas prices to drift back to the national average.