It’s no dream. Gasoline in Central Oregon is more expensive and in short supply, thanks to solar-eclipse traffic.
The average price for a gallon of regular gas in Bend on Thursday was $2.83, according to the AAA Fuel Price Finder. That’s 10 cents higher than the Bend average Aug. 11. The area average Thursday rose 3 cents in about five hours.
In Bend, locals looking to fill their tanks converged with visitors on their way north to the zone of totality, where the moon on Monday morning will fully obscure the sun for as long as two minutes. In Prineville, Oregon State Police reported miles-long heavy traffic Thursday, with many motorists heading east to a music and eclipse festival at Big Summit Prairie.
Motorists reported waiting in lines of five or more vehicles to get gasoline, only to find the pump had run dry.
“We haven’t seen any widespread outages, and most of them have been temporary,” said Marie Dodds, spokeswoman for AAA Oregon, on Thursday.
“Typically a station will run out of one grade of gas or diesel at one time until they replenish,” she added.
The price per gallon of regular gas climbed as much as 30 cents at some stations in Central Oregon in the past week after barely budging or not moving at all the week prior, according to AAA data. The Valero station at 61396 U.S. Highway 97 in Bend, for example, charged $3.10 for a gallon of regular Thursday, up from $2.80 a gallon Aug. 11. Space Age at 20635 Grandview Drive, Bend, was up 16 cents a gallon from last week to $2.59.
In Madras, gas at Safeway, 180 NE Cedar St., was going for $2.76 for a gallon of regular, 22 cents higher than Aug. 11, according to AAA. The Texaco at 539 NW Sixth St., Redmond, was charging 30 cents more than a week ago, or $3 a gallon.
“We are seeing an enhanced escalation” in the price of gas, Dodds said. “There’s no law on the books that says how much gas has to be sold for. Individual stations can price at a level that people will pay.”
However, collusion, or price fixing among station owners, is not OK, she said.
At Expressway, 1450 SE Reed Market Road in Bend, store owner Dan Healy said he was taking fuel deliveries twice a day to keep up with demand. Normally, the tanker arrives every other day.
“It’s definitely more of a demand,” Healy said. “And there’s a lot more expense in getting gas here, that’s what’s causing the price to go up. Every hour (the delivery trucks) are sitting in traffic adds on” to the price per gallon.
Some station owners are definitely taking advantage of circumstances to jack up the price of gas, he said, but mostly the price increase is supply and demand.
“All in all, it’s good for business,” he said.
This is peak summer travel season anyway, Dodds said. For gas consumption nationwide, this summer is on par with or poised to break a record, she said. Add to that an influx of thousands of people eager to see the Monday morning solar eclipse, making their way to campsites, festivals or just a spot inside the path of totality, and the usual volume of passenger vehicles exceeds the norm.
“This is heavy traffic on steroids, July Fourth and a winter snowstorm,” Dodds said. The volume of calls to AAA for roadside assistance is two or three times normal, with dead batteries, tire problems, lock outs and empty gas tanks the most common problems, in that order.
She advised travelers to keep at least a half tank of gas in their vehicles at all times and use a mobile phone app like the one provided by AAA to help find the least expensive gas.
“If you do get stuck and you’re close to empty,” she said, “it’s not a good situation for anybody.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7815, firstname.lastname@example.org