Even if you’re staying home more because of the coronavirus, you might have noticed what’s happening at area gas pumps.
Gas prices are sliding below $2. Well below, in some places.
In Parkers Prairie, Sammy’s and Gappa Oil have set their prices at $1.79 a gallon for unleaded, the lowest it’s been in several years.
That’s not the lowest price in Minnesota; that honor goes to Red Wing, where several gas stations were selling gas Monday between $1.40 and $1.50 per gallon, with one down to $1.36, according to GasBuddy.com. In Alexandria on Monday, most gas was selling at $1.99.
“Everybody’s worried about inflation, but we’re seeing deflation,” said Jeff Samuelson, owner of Sammy’s in Parkers Prairie.
Samuelson said he got a good price from his supplier and decided to pass the savings onto his customers. That prompted Gappa to follow suit, and owner Rick Gappa said it’s a great time to buy not just gas at the pump, but also farm gas and heating fuel. No. 1 fuel oil, used for home heating, is at $1.99 a gallon, Gappa said.
“It hasn’t been that cheap for years,” he said.
Gas prices slid -- and may slide further -- for one major reason, due to a price war over crude oil between Saudi Arabia and Russia, according to AAA, the nation’s largest motoring and leisure travel membership organization.
The war comes at a time when people are traveling less because of coronavirus fears.
That drop in travel is affecting gas stations differently. Gappa said demand for fuel at his store was down 25-30% recently. Sammy’s, which also sells groceries, has seen a jump in traffic because food has been a hot commodity, Samuelson said.
Meanwhile, the low fuel prices drew a mixed reaction from those filling up in Parkers Prairie on Monday.
“It’s good for the pocketbook,” said Melva Ruckheim of Parkers Prairie, who grows corn and soybeans with her husband. “It’s bad for the gas companies and ethanol.”
Ethanol has already taken a hit, with the Trump administration exempting some fuel refineries from having to meet biofuel standards, thereby reducing their demand for corn. And while low fuel prices can help farmers, who buy it in bulk to run their tractors and other equipment, Ruckheim pointed out that farmers are not in the fields yet.
“It may or may not benefit farmers by planting time,” she said.
Chris Denn, a district sales manager for Farm and Home Publishers, said he travels about 250 miles a day for work, over 16 counties between Minnesota and the Dakotas, and notices that fuel prices differ greatly between towns, sometimes by as much as 20 cents.
“I don’t understand the economies of how their pricing works,” he said.
Kayla Lorine, a Parkers Prairie mom of three, saw a big savings while filling up the family vehicle.
“It’s crazy to see how cheap it is,” she said. “Compared to paying $45 or more, today it was $35.”