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 “The reason gas prices are so high is because the oil is in Texas and Oklahoma and all the dipsticks are in Washington.” – Yakov Smirnoff   

It felt like I was in a time machine, but it was really just Sioux Falls.

The gasoline nozzle clicked off, and astonishingly, only $32.52 had been charged to my credit card.

$2 a gallon gasoline? Actually, no. I was paying $1.98.9 in South Dakota’s largest city, as it likes to bill itself.

This was three weeks ago, and fuel costs may have changed since then, and if they haven’t, they will, because roller coasters are not limited to amusement parks.

Consumers know this well. When gasoline exceeded $4 a gallon, it was a genuine hardship on those who faced long commutes each day. For the farm wife logging 20 or 30 miles one way going to Mitchell, Watertown, or Yankton, those costs had to be figured into the family budget, much like the house payment, insurance, and taxes.

Driving across South Dakota, as was my good fortune recently, a new version of the state’s “Land of Infinite Variety” slogan could be seen.

The $1.98.9 per gallon in Sioux Falls grew steadily as I headed west. A sign trumpeted $2.30 in Mitchell, but that was downtown. The sign changed to $2.44 in Kimball, $2.49 in Chamberlain, $2.45 in Presho, $2.49 in Belvidere, and dipped to $2.39 in Rapid City.

When gasoline is between $2 and $3, few complaints are heard about prices.

There is a sense that the cost is reasonable, and, as it turns out, there is a basis for this. Fifty years ago, in 1965, gasoline was selling for 33 cents a gallon. Adjusted for inflation, that same gallon would cost about $2.50 today.

But when gasoline goes above $3 and starts to march toward $4, many consumers seek out the best price, even if it isn’t in their hometown. One salesman I know claims knowledge of all the “hot spots” for gasoline. One is De Smet, which he swears is lower than the region around it. “When I’m driving on Highway 14, I’ll wait for De Smet before stopping,” he said.

Some gas station owners wisely provide an incentive for local customers. One Mitchell convenience store owner uses a coupon worth 5 cents to 10 cents a gallon, something that tourists generally wouldn’t know about.

He doesn’t wash the windshield, or check the oil, but it still shows locals he wants their business.

Oct. 14, 2015