TRAVERSE CITY — Pat Ritola knew she needed gas for her vehicle but figured she’d stop at the pump on her way home from an afternoon golf match.
Boy, was she in for a shock.
Unleaded gas spiked 34 cents, to a painful $4.29 a gallon for unleaded regular, from the time she pulled the driver out of the golf bag Wednesday to when she put the putter away on the last hole.
“It’s disappointing,” Ritola said as she filled up at the Speedway Station on Front Street. “I feel for the people on limited income who have to drive long distances to and from work and school. It makes my heart sad.”
The huge spike in gas prices Wednesday continued Michigan’s dubious distinction this week of having the second highest gas prices in the nation, behind only Hawaii. To put it in perspective, gas in Alaska is nearly 28 cents cheaper than it is in Traverse City.
Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst gasbuddy.com, said production problems at a string of refineries in the Midwest is causing the problems throughout the Great Lakes region, causing what some are saying is the “lowest levels of available supply in 20 years.”
AAA Michigan spokeswoman Nancy Cain concurred.
“This is a continuation of refinery issues,” Cain said.
The rise in cost also comes during Smart Commute Week in Traverse City. Event organizers hope the shared misery at the pump will prompt many to reexamine new ways to travel, whether it be by foot, bike or bus.
“It’s a little extra incentive to figure out how to get around the region outside of a car,” said Julie Clark, executive director of TART Trails, which helps organize the annual event. “Avoid those price hikes.”
For many at the gas pumps Wednesday afternoon, though, there was no avoiding the suffering.
“We try to do $20 at a time so hopefully it evens out,” said gas purchaser Taylor Converse, who also filled up at the Speedway on Front Street. “You can’t do anything about it. Just show up at the gas station and see how much they are going to charge you today.”