Gas prices are down, but for how long? |

Gas prices are down, but for how long?

Jeff Munson
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Marina Lemus, from South Lake Tahoe, puts in $13 worth of gas Tuesday at the American station.

Pummeled by gas prices well over $3 a gallon for more than year, Lake Tahoe motorists have begun to see temporary relief as the cost of fuel has dropped below the high mark, at least for the time being.

Gas prices on the South Shore dipped below $3 a gallon beginning Friday at select locations, with most following suit on Monday and Tuesday. Last year the price of a gallon of gas reached nearly $4 a gallon at some stations following Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s a nice reality. For now that is,” said South Lake Tahoe resident Greg Fleming, who filled up Tuesday at American Gas, where the price was $2.99 a gallon.

“I’d like to see the price of a gallon drop as fast as the price of crude. We haven’t seen that yet,” he said.

Gas prices are usually 12 to 20 cents more at Lake Tahoe than in Carson City or Minden/Gardnerville.

Taking advantage of the cheaper fuel, Marina Lemus of South Lake Tahoe hopes the cost of gasoline continues to drop. Earlier this year it would cost her $60-plus to fill the tank of her Isuzu Rodeo. To pay the price, sacrifices were made, especially when it came down to buying food or going out on the weekends, she said.

“For a while you couldn’t go out because it was too much,” she said.

With the hurricane, the war in Iraq and fears of a conflict in Iran, prices have continued an upward spiral over the past four years.

While Republicans hope to make lower gas prices a feather in their collective campaign hat before the November election, most analysts agree the drop is temporary and that the hurricane season nor the war in Iraq or Middle East tensions is anywhere near over by a long stretch.

“The picture isn’t as rosy as what’s been painted,” said Michael Geeser, spokesman for AAA Nevada. “The national average isn’t a bargain by historic measure. It’s quite high and prices could go back up at a drop of a hat, and for Tahoe that means more than $3 a gallon.

“Not only do we know the prices can go up quickly, the other cause for concern is that nothing has been done to address the situation of supply and demand. This is a much greater issue that needs to be solved.”

Even though the price is dropping, many like Fleming believe there needs to be a point where motorists will start demanding alternative energy sources from automakers and the government.

“Even at $2.99, that’s still too much,” Fleming said. “There’s no telling what it will do next, but what we should do is get away from the crude and the foreign oil and look into alternatives such as solar, wind, nuclear power and fuel cells for energy as soon as possible.”

As gas prices soared for much of the past year, so has the amount of inquiries into alternative energy. AAA for example, has seen a number of its members ask about alternative fuels. It has created a greenlight initiative link on its Web page, ( where motorists can go to learn about what’s being done at the national level to address the issue.

“It’s promising that the public and our members have asked for more information on hybrids and alternative fuels and now we have the Web link for the public to go,” he said.

The average price of retail gas in Nevada is $2.96, an 11-cent decrease from the last AAA survey on Aug. 15.

In the last survey, Nevada ranked 11th in the country for the highest average gas price. This month Nevada is tied with California for the third highest average among other states. Only Hawaii and Idaho are higher.

“After the Labor Day holiday weekend, gas prices traditionally start to drop,” Geeser said. “So far this year’s hurricane season has had no effect on refinery operation on the Gulf Coast. That has created a small cushion between supply and demand and allowed prices to fall.”

The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded has dropped to $2.61, down 39 cents from last month’s survey. The most expensive gas in the United States is in Wailuku, Hawaii where a gallon of regular unleaded costs an average of $3.61.

In this month’s survey, the highest price for gas in the continental United States is in the Southern California town of Blythe, where the average price is $3.28. The least expensive gasoline in the country is found in Springfield, Missouri, where regular unleaded costs an average of $2.22.

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