Ed Baca recalled paying 21 cents a gallon for gasoline in 1962 — and that seemed high because he was only earning 75 cents an hour at the old Empire Builders Supply store.
Looking over his restored 1957 Chevy Bel-Air parked on the Plaza, he said he had just spent $60 to fill its tank — about 12 gallons.
So Baca was happy to see gasoline prices — which rose like a rocket this spring and summer — have been coming down almost as fast in the past few days.
“You need a vehicle anywhere you go now,” he said. “To work, church, the grocery store. It adds up. I feel sorry for people who work for minimum wage.”
Fuel prices across Santa Fe have offered a bit of relief over the last month — dropping an average of 18 cents per gallon since last week, according to AAA New Mexico.
On Thursday, AAA reported a gallon of regular gasoline cost on average $4.29 in Santa Fe compared to $4.47 the previous week — though motorists could find it as low as $4.15 a gallon at some stations Friday.
Gasoline prices have dropped 60 cents since they peaked at $4.89 per gallon on June 11.
“The decrease in gas prices is a welcome relief to all Santa Feans who have been feeling the crunch,” Randy Randall, Tourism Santa Fe’s executive director, wrote in an email. “It’s also good timing at the outset of our high season for tourism. More drive-in visitors will be good for business, which will be good for our tax revenues and the city services they support.”
Abril Ramos, general manager of the Sage Hotel in Santa Fe, said she has noticed more people from out of state are making road trips and staying at the hotel.
Lower gasoline prices have also eased the burden employees who commute to the hotel every day, she said.
“Most of us don’t live here in the downtown area; we have to travel from other places, so it definitely helps,” Ramos said.
But even declines of nearly 20 cents a gallon won’t make much of a difference for businesses that rely on vehicles every minute, every hour, every day. Robert Anaya Sr. of Anaya’s Roadrunner Wrecker Service said he recently has been paying $5.65 per gallon for diesel to run his 17-vehicle fleet.
He said he spends at least $20,000 a month on fuel for his business.
“It’s come down a bit, but not much,” Anaya said, adding that passing the increased cost of fuel onto his customers is something he needs to be cautious about.
“It’s hurting everybody so bad the consumer can’t even afford it,” he said. “We have to analyze every call before we impose a surcharge. It’s crazy out there.”
Marcos Trujillo, who runs the three-vehicle Black Car New Mexico service, said he’s happy gasoline prices are dropping, but they are still not “where I’d like to see them.”
He said when gasoline prices go up, those increased costs are passed on to the consumer.
Fuel prices had gone up so much that Trujillo’s monthly expense for gasoline — $4,000 — had topped his monthly expense for employees.
Still, the drop in prices will bring a little relief, though the savings may not be seen until next month.
Motorists and truckers heading north into Santa Fe on Interstate 25 Friday expressed collective relief that prices are dropping. Some said they could see them falling overnight — from $3.67 to $3.54 along U.S. 550, said Robert Dorn.
“You get in your vehicle, it costs a fortune,” he said, adding he feels for people living in larger urban areas where the prices are even higher.
Several interstate motorists said they had seen prices pushing $7 per gallon in California.
Trucker Randy McDonald, who was heading from Albuquerque to Denver on Friday, said he’s lucky he doesn’t own the truck he was driving. The company he drives for, Digby Dedicated, bears the cost of fuel, he said.
“I’m a company driver,” McDonald said while taking a break at a rest stop along the interstate south of Santa Fe. “But if you own your own truck, yikes!”
Another trucker, Ezz Samah, said he recently put $800 in diesel into the vehicle, which was good for a day’s drive through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. Like McDonald, he’s a company man, not the owner of the vehicle, so he’s not on the hook for the cost.
He saw prices drop in Phoenix, where he lives, over the past week.
“Thank God,” he said. “It can make a difference.”
Albuquerque had the cheapest gasoline among New Mexico metro areas at $4.09, a 20-cent decline compared to last week. Las Cruces was 34 cents cheaper at $4.23 and Farmington registered $4.85, only 3 cents cheaper than the previous week, AAA reported.
“Gas prices have been on the decline as crude oil prices have dipped recently on headlines of a possible economic slowdown,” said AAA New Mexico spokesman Joshua Zuber. “An economic slowdown could cause a drop in demand for fuel and oil products — so the market has been dropping the price for crude recently.”
The Energy Information Administration also reported fuel demand dropped in the U.S. from 9.4 million barrels per day on
July 1 to 8.5 million on July 15.
It is still unclear if prices will continue to drop as a supply disruption caused by the war in Ukraine or hurricane season could send prices skyrocketing again.
“How long this drop in prices lasts remains to be seen as July is typically the leading month for travel, and August is still expected to be a busy month for travel,” Zuber said. “A bad hurricane hitting the wrong spot along the Gulf Coast could cause real headaches this year because of all of the volatility.”