April 23, 2014

AAA: Gas prices have risen almost daily since mid-February

gas-pump-111A study of gasoline prices shows the national average has increased 49 of the past 52 days.

AAA spokeswoman Gail Weinholzer says pump prices in Nebraska and Iowa have been climbing steadily for several weeks, but they should be topping off fairly soon.

“They have been going up in both states although both are still significantly below where they were at this time last year,” Weinholzer says. “In fact, we’re paying the lowest amount (for this date) since 2010.”

The statewide average price in Nebraska is $3.55 a gallon, the same as the national average. Prices have bounded since the start of March.

Wienholzer says, “We have seen about a 30-cent increase or so over the last month but we do expect prices to peak out rather shortly and decline as we head into the rest of spring, assuming spring does get here.”

Three key factors are to blame for the price hikes, she says: the switch from winter to summer blends of fuel, refineries shutting down for spring maintenance and rising demand with the warmer weather.

U-P invests $4.5-million in Nebraska – Iowa line

Just as road construction season is getting underway in Nebraska, Union Pacific Railroad is following suit. U-P spokesman Mark Davis says work is underway on a big infrastructure project in Nebraska and Iowa. U-P is replacing 31,700 concrete railroad ties and installing 16,670 tons of rock along the line that runs from Omaha to Missouri Valley, Iowa. U-P is also renewing the surfaces at 29 road crossings so drivers will notice an impact as work continues. The total cost of this project is $4.5-million.

The project is one of nearly 1,500 Union Pacific will complete across its 32,000-mile network this year. Davis says from2007 to 2013 U-P invested more than $21.6-billion on the network and operations to support the rail program.

The Omaha to Missouri Valley line project will be finished by the end of May.

Ethanol backers tout fuel’s many benefits for Nebraska

gas-pump-111On this Saint Patrick’s Day, there’s renewed discussion about the “green” fuel being produced in Nebraska.

Todd Becker, president of the Omaha-based Green Plains Renewable Energy, says corn-based ethanol is continuing to have an enormous impact on the state’s economy.

Becker says the value-added by-products are of great value, too, in addition to the two-billion gallons of fuel produced here every year.

“We produce several million tons of livestock feed as well, so the impact of ethanol on the state isn’t just on jobs but also tax revenue, on wages, on our impact for the combination when we talk about corn and livestock and ethanol living together.”

Becker says he’s still anxious to hear a decision from the Environmental Protection Agency on the volume obligations in the RFS, or renewable fuel standard. He says they’re expecting at least a partial ramp up of those requirements from what EPA originally proposed.

“We think we’ll have at least some positive adjustment to those numbers to reflect absolute real gas demand,” Becker says. “We’ve made our argument to the economic council and the White House and the EPA and USDA and we’ve got broad support and I think some of those arguments, especially around gas demand, is really what’s going to drive the decision.”

Becker says with the economy improving, gas demand is going back up which is a good sign for renewable fuels.

Nebraska is the nation’s #2 ethanol producer behind only Iowa. Ethanol is responsible for about 1,200 jobs in Nebraska. The state has 24 ethanol plants operating with a capacity of more than 2-billion gallons a year and consuming 700-million bushels of corn.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


I-80 closed in western Nebraska so Air Force could find box of ammo

This time it wasn’t the weather that closed Interstate 80 in western Nebraska.

I-80 has re-opened in the Panhandle after being closed so the Air Force could look for a box of ammunition that had fallen out of the back of a Humvee.

Officials at the F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming says the ammo has been found. The base reports a security team traveling in a western Nebraska missile field lost the ammunition. The ammunition and some other items have been recovered. The Air Force says the public was never put in danger, because of the incident.

Lanes in both directions on I-80 were closed for a time Thursday morning.

Non-stop flights from Sioux City to Denver return in June

FrontierFrontier Airlines is announcing plans to add three non-stop flights each week to the Siouxland area from its hub in Denver, Colorado.

Sioux City, Iowa, airport director Curt Miller says customers can start booking seats on flights now that will start flying in June.

Miller says the first flight into Sioux City will be June 12th, while the first flight back to Denver will be in the morning on June 13th. Miller says Frontier will use a larger jet for these flights.

“They’re flying Airbus 319 aircraft, which is about 138-seat jet aircraft, so it’s a larger jet than we’ve had here for awhile,” Miller says. “But again, they are doing three flights a week, so that gives us quite a bit of capacity for people who want to go west.”

Frontier is celebrating the new service by offering some flights as low as $49 each way. Frontier last provided air service to Sioux City between 2007 and 2008.

By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City