Southeast New Mexico had some of the cheapest gas in the state as motorists throughout nation grappled with higher prices at the pump.
The region is characterized by heavy oil and gas production, and proximity to refineries in neighboring Texas.
Crude oil prices, along with refinery and shipping costs are the key components of retail gas prices, per the Energy Information Administration.
New Mexico’s statewide average, per data from AAA as of Thursday morning, was $4.51 a gallon while the national average was $4.72.
This was the highest average price ever recorded in the state, AAA reported.
Data from AAA showed Eddy, Otero, Chaves and Lea counties all below the state average of $4.51 a gallon, averaging $4.38, $4.44, $4.38 and $4.37 a gallon, respectively.
Lincoln County was slightly more than the average at $4.53 a gallon, records show.
The state’s other oil and gas region also had gas prices at or near the state average.
McKinley County averaged $4.49 a gallon, while Rio Arriba averaged $4.45 a gallon.
Sandoval and San Juan counties were higher than the state average at $4.54 a gallon and $4.73 a gallon, respectively.
The southwest portion of the state, near the U.S. border with Mexico largely exceeded the state average, AAA reported as Dona Ana County averaged $4.54 a gallon, Luna County was at $4.58 and Hidalgo County was at $4.55 a gallon.
Prices rose steadily in the last month, per the report, from a statewide average of $4.10 a gallon at the start of May, to $4.32 a gallon a week ago.
De Baca County, just north of Chaves County had the lowest average price in the state, AAA reported, at $4.18 a gallon.
Catron County, along New Mexico’s western border with rural Arizona, had the highest prices in the state at about $4.84 a gallon, records show, following by Harding County at $4.73 a gallon.
Where’s the cheapest gas in your town?
The lowest gas price in Carlsbad, per a report from Gas Buddy Thursday morning, was $4.19 a gallon at the Exxon station at 106 W. Greene St., a price shared by the Shamrock station on North Canal Street, Alon on West Lea Street and the Bell on National Parks Highway.
The Chevron station at 1311 W. Pierce St. had the highest price in Gas Buddy’s list at $4.39 a gallon, the same price at the Chveron on National Park Highway and the Alon on South Canal Street.
Alamogordo had the cheapest gallon of gas in reported by Gas Buddy in New Mexico with $3.95 a gallon being sold at the Alon at 100 N. White Stands Blvd, with the priciest in Otero County reported at $4.39 a gallon an Alon station in Cloudcroft.
In Lincoln County, the cheapest was at the Valero in Alto on Sun Valley Road at $4.29 a gallon, followed by $4.39 a gallon offered at another Valero in on Sudderth Drive in Ruidoso.
Lincoln County’s highest gas price reported by Gas Buddy was $4.59 a gallon at the Circle K in Ruidoso Downs.
The cheapest gas in Las Cruces was $4.23 at the Sam’s Club station on Telshor Boulevard.
Farmington’s highest price was also at the Sam’s Club on East Main Street.
Could gas get even more expensive?
While growth in prices slowed at the end of May, rising by less than 3 cents in the last week of the month, analysts expected it could pick back up this summer amid higher crude oil prices.
A recent ban on Russian oil imports enacted by Europe, following a similar move this spring by the U.S., in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which prompted global condemnation, led to market fears for supply constraints during a time of increased demand on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, per a report from AAA.
The summer is known as one of the nation’s most busy travel season, with AAA forecasting 35 million drivers making trips during the Memorial Day weekend at the end of May, the highest number since 2019 – months before the pandemic took hold in early 2020.
Meanwhile, crude oil prices soared higher than pre-pandemic levels, well into the triple digits, records show, with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange reporting $116 a barrel as of Thursday and predicting prices to remain at more than $100 a barrel for the rest of the year.
Andrew Gross, spokesman for AAA said the high gas prices so far did not deter drivers from summer road trips and vacation, although he said a recent survey showed 67 percent of drivers said they would alter driving habits at $4.50 a gallon and 75 percent would do so at $5 a gallon.
“So far, the pent-up urge to travel caused by the pandemic outweighs high pump prices for many consumers,” said Andrew Gross, spokesman at AAA. “If pump prices keep rising, will people alter their summer travel plans? That remains to be seen.”
The higher prices also drew political criticism from fossil fuel industry groups, accusing the State of New Mexico’s recent policies intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as driving up energy prices for consumers in the state.
Larry Behrens, Santa Fe-based communications director at Power the Future, an oil and gas advocacy group, pointed to the Clean Fuel Standard Act, a bill that died during the 2022 Legislative Session but would have increased requirements to reduce carbon intensity of transportation fuels in New Mexico.
He said this bill and others like it supported by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham could add even more strain at the pump.
“Given the pain everyone is feeling right now, it’s mind-boggling that Governor Lujan Grisham and her environmental campaign donors were pushing even harder for higher gas prices just a few months ago, Behrens said.
“Perhaps if the Governor had to foot the bill for her own gasoline instead of the tax payers, she would have a different opinion about out of control costs with no end in sight.”