Fuel costs don’t thwart holiday travels

Mike Linn

The rise in gas prices in the state and across the nation may be annoying local residents, but the soaring rates — the second highest recorded prices in New Mexico history — aren’t discouraging citizens from traveling out of town this Labor Day weekend.
As of Thursday afternoon, the American Automobile Association reported the state’s average regular unleaded gas prices at $1.68, a mere penny below the state’s highest recorded prices in March.
In Portales, a majority of gas stations are charging about $1.66 for regular unleaded fuel, a price Eastern New Mexico University junior Dustan Moyers described as, “(Crappy), way too high for a college student.”
Moyers, who was filling up a friend’s car at an area gas station Thursday afternoon, said the high prices haven’t discouraged his Labor Day weekend plans of attending a roping competition in Plains, Texas, about 150 miles away from Portales.
Moyers is one of 33.4 million Americans who are expected to travel at least 50 miles this weekend, the highest number of Labor Day road trippers in at least nine years, the AAA estimates.
The top destinations among New Mexicans this weekend are Las Vegas, Denver and Yellowstone National Park, the AAA New Mexico reports.
“The high gas prices really don’t seem to be slowing down people to much,” Brenda Yager, spokesperson for AAA New Mexico, said. “We’re predicting obviously one of the higher Labor Day weekend travel periods in terms of people traveling by car.
“What people are doing is saving money in other ways, they’re obviously being very good consumers and that’s one of the things we recommend … although on a holiday weekend you should never let your gas tank get too low.”
Yager cited the recent east coast blackout, which prevented production of some 750,000 barrels of oil daily, and the Arizona gas pipeline rupture as reasons for increased gas prices nationwide.
A California refinery is supplying gas to Arizona until the pipeline is fixed, which causes a chain reaction affecting gas prices in New Mexico and across the nation.
“These are all factors that impact us too,” said Yager, who noted the New Mexico gas prices are about a nickel a gallon cheaper than the national average. “When inventory is tight the price usually goes up and demand will still be high this weekend.”
But Portales resident Rick Winter had other explanations for increased gas prices.
“It’s a bunch of B.S.” he said Thursday evening while gassing up his truck at a local station in Portales. “They’re claiming the power outage in New York and pipeline (rupture in Arizona) are the reasons, but that’s hard to believe.”
Winter said he believed the gas companies are lifting prices for no other reason than to make excessive amounts of money.
“They’re really sticking it to us,” he said, “I truly believe that.”