Gas price spikes no less welcome in Princeton

Joe Nelson of Princeton says he thinks the recent gas price hikes “kind of rings of suspicion or collusion.”

Nelson, 62, refers to the many news reports stating that a major cause of the recent gas price spikes is the simultaneous shutdown of two more gas refineries in the Upper Midwest. The refineries are reported to have shut down for annual maintenance and to switch their gas formula to a summer blend.

But why do so many refineries have to shut down at the same time, Nelson asked.

Such timed shutdowns affect people’s livelihoods, said Nelson, who commutes 35 miles each way to his job at Pentair in Anoka.

Gas prices began swinging up about 50 cents or more per gallon just more than a week ago in the Princeton area and across Minnesota. The Gas Buddy app on smartphones showed the prices at Princeton gas pumps settling to $4.19 per gallon Tuesday morning this week. Milaca gas stations sold at $4.09 at the same time.

Nelson, who has worked at the same workplace for 37 years, said the recent gas spikes have left him paying $100 per week for his commuting fuel, compared to $67 weekly before the spikes.

Nelson isn’t talking about carpooling or acquiring another vehicle with better mileage than the 20 mpg he gets with his 1992 Dodge Dakota pickup with 341,000 miles.

For starters, carpooling isn’t the option it once was at his workplace, he said. He explained that the company has gone from an old policy of emphasizing the hiring of people from Anoka on north to hiring at large.

As for dumping his 341,000-mile Dakota, he said it has reached the point of paying for itself and he does not see a benefit in taking on a new monthly payment.

While Nelson said he doesn’t like the perception he gets from multiple refineries closing down at once, he said he still feels lucky to be living in America with its freedoms and its lower gas prices than Europe.

Grumblings about the gas price hikes were heard Monday morning elsewhere in Princeton. They came from motorists Steven Struck and Gene Tallant, who were filling up at the Holiday station.

“Gas is a little expensive without the wages going up,” said Struck, who drives a ‘96 Cadillac Seville. “I’ve got to put premium in my car.”

Struck added that with the premium gas, his Seville gets 28-32 mpg. But that mileage still does not compensate for the gas price hikes coming in the middle of stagnant wages, Struck said.

“Oh, it’s ridiculous,” Tallant said about the recent gas hikes and the gas price fluctuations he has seen. “It goes up 50 cents and then it goes down 50 cents.”

Tallant talked about a TV show he saw called Backyard Oil, and the message he got from it that “they’re pumping oil everywhere,” and asked, “Why do they (the oil companies) make billions off us? I’m trying to raise a family and pay bills.”

Nelson said he shops around for the best gas deal, and he is certainly not alone. Last Friday, when the Milaca Holiday gas station was a dime lower than many other places, the station was packed with vehicles whose drivers were trying to fuel up.