By Lex Treinian
Chilkat Valley News
Late last week, Steve Johnson, a tourist visiting Haines from Wisconsin, was grumbling about his gas bill: $92.
“It kinda sucks. Just looking at gas in Skagway, which is where we’re going, it’s $5.05 (per gallon),” said Johnson.
Haines fishermen, tourism businesses and vacationers have all been dealing with high gas bills as per-gallon prices in Haines approach $6.
Haines gas has been more expensive than other comparable communities in Southeast Alaska for years, but recent price increases seem to have hit Haines particularly hard. Skagway’s price at the pump on Saturday was $5.30. In Craig, it was $5.03. The national average was $3.56, according to AAA.
The price discrepancy has confused some consumers, who wonder why Haines, which is connected to the highway, is so much more expensive than other communities that aren’t.
“I know there’s supply and demand issues, but it does seem a little bit off,” said Jason Ghan, after filling up his pickup truck.
Both gas stations in Haines are supplied by Delta Western. Company officials declined to respond to questions about how they price their gas. But Haines Borough Mayor Doug Olerud said there are explanations for why Haines consumers pay more at the pump. Compared to Skagway, which supplies fuel to the Yukon Territory, Haines only buys a miniscule amount of gas.
“That volume allows them to buy it at a lower cost,” said Olerud.
Despite being connected to the road system, Haines is still a long way for fuel barges to travel, Olerud said. He compared it to Juneau, which was paying about $4.10 per gallon last week.
“The closer to Seattle the barge has to go, the cheaper it’s gonna be,” he said. “It’s 40% higher (to come to Haines) than just going to Juneau.”
Still, Olerud said that prices had floated up after Petro Marine stopped shipping gas to Haines about 20 years ago. That left Delta Western with a monopoly on fuel supply in town.
“Any time you have a single seller, it’s always a concern,” said borough manager Annette Kreitzer.
Still, borough officials said they don’t have any reason to believe that Delta Western is artificially inflating its prices.
“I don’t have any information that says that’s true or untrue,” Olerud said.
Prices are lower than their peak last year, shortly after Russia’s war in Ukraine shot global oil markets through the roof. Gas prices in Haines reached $7 per gallon, and have dropped significantly since then.
Many consumers said they’re used to dealing with high gas prices, one of the many sacrifices they make to live in Haines. They say they’ll adapt to cost increases however they have to.
“It is what it is,” said Jessie Badger, after spending about $60 to fill up her SUV. “I’m thinking about getting another job quite honestly. The price of everything is going up; wages are not.”
Originally published in the Chilkat Valley News July 20.