Costs approach $2.60 per gallon at Lawrence stations

Scott Zaremba didn’t want to do it, but a confluence of market pressures, competitive moves and foreign tensions conspired to press his three service stations in Lawrence and two in Olathe to put up some unprecedented numbers Monday afternoon.

The stations posted a price of $2.599 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline – up 10 cents from a few hours earlier, and yet another record price in a summer that’s beginning to sound like a broken record.

Stations in Lawrence had been charging an average of $2.34 heading into the weekend, according to AAA.

“It’s been moving up so rapidly, we have a hard time keeping up with it ourselves,” said Zaremba, president of Zarco 66 Inc., who has been selling gasoline in town for 30 years. “They’re moving at a pace that’s been unseen.”

But as economists marvel at the steadfast refusal of the American consumer to let off the accelerator of fuel consumption – the Energy Department says that consumption is up 1 percent, despite rising fuel prices – Zaremba isn’t so sure.

Fuel gauge

Average prices in Lawrence for regular unleaded gasoline, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report:

Aug. 4: $2.210

Aug. 5: $2.231

Aug. 8: $2.268

Aug. 9: $2.285

Wednesday: $2.268

Thursday: $2.312

Friday: $2.344

Monday: $2.433

He’s watched the volume of sales dip slightly at his shops, although his real fear is that customers won’t have enough money left over to buy a pack of cigarettes, a bag of chips or even a can of soda inside – not to mention new clothes, furnishings or other products elsewhere that keep the economy moving.

“We’re a society that’s born and lives on energy,” he said. “I don’t know how else to put it. That’s the lifestyle everybody is accustomed to. It will be interesting to see where the point is when everybody starts cutting back, and then we’ll be concerned.”

Jim Hanni, executive vice president for AAA in Kansas, said that the recent run-up in fuel prices had yet to curb travel plans.

“We’ve seen nobody adjusting their travel plans or canceling their vacation or even postponing it as a result of high gas prices,” said Hanni, whose organization has 11,000 members in Douglas County and 230,000 throughout Kansas. “I can’t give you a single report of one.”

Then again, AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report (, which tracks average prices, hadn’t had time to compute the new prices going up all over town Monday afternoon. AAA was reporting that the average prices of regular unleaded was $2.433 a gallon Monday, up from $2.268 a month earlier, and from $1.797 a year earlier.

“It’s got to be leveling off soon,” Hanni said. “Surely, after Labor Day, we’ll have some respite.”