By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
When it comes to gas prices, Illinois is hardly the best location in the nation at the moment.
The average price of a gallon of regular gas in Illinois is currently the fourth-most expensive in the country, according to figures supplied by AAA.
Gas prices, which have fluctuated greatly in Quincy in recent weeks, stood at $3.68 a gallon for regular unleaded on Saturday, which was 22 cents per gallon cheaper than the state average ($3.90), but considerably higher than the national norm ($3.52).
Illinois currently ranks behind only Hawaii ($4.36), Alaska ($3.98) and California ($3.91) when it comes to the most expensive gas.
The most expensive site in Illinois is Chicago, where the average price per gallon is $4.28. Quincy is comparable to many other Illinois towns, including Springfield ($3.74), Rockford ($3.71), Peoria ($3.70) and East St. Louis ($3.70).
Some local residents have stopped worrying about the frustrating pendulum tied to the price swings.
"When I need to fill up, I do it," Stacy Ripperda of Camp Point said. "I really don't pay much attention anymore."
Ron Schildt of Quincy says he normally drives across the Mississippi River to West Quincy, Mo., for his gas. A fill-up across the river normally saves West-Central Illinois motorists about a dime a gallon. Currently, the savings are more dramatic.
Friday afternoon a gallon in West Quincy was selling for $3.48, or 20 cents below Quincy. In Hannibal, the price was even lower at $3.29, according to GasBuddy.com. In Palmyra, a gallon was $3.27, according to MissouriGasPrices.com.
Schildt, too, has become apathetic about the ups and downs of the prices at the pump.
"It is what it is," he said.
The recent storms and ensuing flooding and power outages have all served as triggers for higher retail prices in the Midwest, according to AAA. Refineries are undergoing maintenance and transition to summer-blend gasoline, which will be another source for potential higher prices.
Gas stations in most of the country must make the switch from winter to summer blend by June 1, but refineries make the transition in March and April to meet a May 1 deadline. During this period, regional production is reduced and most markets are vulnerable to more unexpected disruptions -- compounded this spring with storms and flooding.
Christal York, who is the assistant manager at the County Market Express at Eighth and York, said some customers have complained about the most-recent hikes but most have accepted prices between $3 and $4 a gallon as a way of life.
"There's nothing we can do about it," York said. "Everyone has to have gas."
A year ago at this time, a gallon of gas in Quincy was $3.81.
Holly Cain, who is the executive director of the Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, does not anticipate any major fall-off in tourism if gas prices remain between $3.50 and $4 this spring and summer.
"People still need to get away," Cain said. "(The gas prices) have not hurt us in recent years."
Cain said several years ago the bureau altered its thinking and concentrated more on attracting visitors closer to Quincy, from southeastern Iowa, eastern Missouri and western Illinois. Cain said people still like to travel, but the distance they travel may not be what it was prior to $3-plus for a gallon of gas.
"Gas prices do affect people's travel plans," she said. "Quincy is an affordable destination in this area of the country, and there are a lot of attractions here that are very affordable."
According to a new consumer price index developed by AAA, 62 percent of Americans are changing their driving habits or lifestyle in order to offset high prices.
"It was not long ago that motorists were shocked to pay more than $3 per gallon for gasoline, but now that is standard at stations nationwide," said Robert L. Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA, in a news release.
The gas-price index tracks consumer attitudes by determining at what price the cost of gasoline becomes too high, said AAA. The open-ended survey revealed how attitudes are likely to change as prices reach certain milestones:
º 46 percent believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3 per gallon;
º 61 percent believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3.50 per gallon;
º 90 percent believe gas is too high when the price reaches $4 per gallon.
"It is possible there is a new normal in terms of consumer attitudes now that gas prices have remained above $3 per gallon for more than two years," Darbelnet said. "Most people have resigned themselves to paying higher gas prices and are cutting back on driving, shopping and dining out to save money."