Despite rising gas prices during the unofficial start of the summer travel season, nearly 2.2 million Michiganders planned to travel over Memorial Day weekend, up 20 percent from last year, according to estimates by the American Automobile Association.
According to Jim Rink, spokesman for AAA of Michigan, high gas prices caused nearly half of all motorists to rethink travel destinations but not cancel plans. “(Michigan residents) will still travel, just fewer miles,” he said.
Last Friday, a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in Michigan averaged $1.85, the sixth highest in the nation, according to AAA. Around Ann Arbor, gas averaged $1.86, up nine cents from a month ago and 42 cents from two months ago.
Although some areas of the state saw $1.95 for gas on Friday and metro Detroit prices hit the $2 mark during the holiday weekend, Jacob Bournazian, economist with the Department of Energy, expects prices to fall off again.
“Absent any supply disruptions, we expect prices in July to be lower than those in June, and August to be lower than July,” he said.
Part of the increase is due to reformulated gasoline used in the summer. In the summer months, refineries change their fuel mixture so the gas is less likely to evaporate toxins into the air, said Jeff Gearhart of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Karen Kendrick-Hands, air policy director for East Michigan Environmental Action Council, said calling the gas reformulated is “just an excuse to pick our pockets. It costs refineries 2 cents more per gallon, but they tell consumers it costs between 5 and 7 cents.”
Overall, 47 percent of those surveyed in Michigan said they planned summer trips, up six percentage points from last year. Of those who travel, 61 percent plan to spend their vacation dollars in Michigan.
Rink said the five most popular destinations for in-state travelers are Mackinaw City, Traverse City, Sault Ste. Marie, Detroit and St. Ignace. Travelers leaving Michigan prefer Niagara Falls, Chicago, Toronto, Washington D.C., and Sea World of Ohio.
Seven percent of travelers said they would travel by air this summer, up two percentage points from last summer.
Renee Jordan, University administrative associate with transportation services, estimates fuel costs for the University have increased 30 percent.
“The departments (with vehicles) have felt the increase,” she said.
To save money amid rising costs, the University bids out gas purchases among six companies. The University bids every time the tanks are refilled, about once per week during the fall and winter terms.
Currently, the University pays $1.26 for a gallon of regular gas. Last year, the University used 400,000 gallons of unleaded fuel for its fleet.
To reduce pollution, the University has retrofitted all its diesel vehicles so they can operate on the biodiesel, which is more costly than regular diesel fuel.
“We”ve switched our diesel vehicles to biodiesel, B-20. It contains twenty percent biological materials, like soy, for lower emissions,” Jordan said.
Last year, the University used 160,000 gallons of conventional diesel and 120,000 gallons of the reformulated diesel.
For its unleaded fleet, the University now tries to buy vehicles that run on ethanol. Jordan said most manufacturers do not tout their vehicles” ethanol capabilities, as the fuel costs twenty cents more per gallon than traditional fuel.
Rink suggested students use ride boards available on campus and carpool to save money on fuel. A ride board is available in the ground floor of the Michigan Union across from Mrs. Field”s Cookies.
Consumers can track gas prices at AAA of Michigan”s website www.aaamich.com or by using a www.gaspricewatch.com, a website that recruits spotters to report gas prices.
Around the nation Thursday, gas prices averaged $1.70. Californians paid the most for gas, an average of $2.02, while Georgians paid the least, $1.48.