$2.38-per-gallon gasoline draws a crowd in Bellevue for AFP, Gov. Pete Ricketts

By: - June 22, 2022 1:39 pm

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts watches a Nebraskan fill up with gas during an Americans for Prosperity event which offered gas at the price when President Joe Biden took over. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

BELLEVUE, Nebraska — A driver in her 20s looked up from her phone and stared slack-jawed at the price of gasoline advertised Wednesday morning at the Speedy Gas N Shop in Bellevue.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts addresses reporters at the Americans for Prosperity event in Bellevue. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

A woman hollered from a second car turning onto the street. She asked a man on the sidewalk whether the $2.38-per-gallon price was real. He said yes, one-day-only, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Both drivers were directed a block away, to the back of a line that was 23 cars deep at 8:23 a.m., minutes after Americans for Prosperity-Nebraska tried to make a political point.

The point

People are suffering from inflationary costs that President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress made worse, said Jessica Shelburn, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Nebraska.

The discounted amount matched the price of regular gasoline when Biden took office in 2021. The station sold 1,750 gallons in two hours.

The group compensated the station for the difference in price, which totaled nearly $4,000. The 501(c)(4) lobbies federal, state and local governments for lower taxes and less regulation and promotes domestic energy.

Bellevue resident Frederick Wisdom says higher gas prices have led his family to eat out less and travel less. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

“We just want to help folks out,” Shelburn said. “Everyone is feeling it. We’re paying more, and we’re getting less. … There’s a lot that can be done in D.C. to change this.”

Line of cars

First in line to take advantage of the special price was Nick, who wouldn’t share his last name. He said he heard about the promotion from a gas station attendant Tuesday. He arrived at 5 a.m. 

Filling up his van cost $70 two years ago. It now costs $165. The break on Wednesday was a blessing, he said. 

“I live in my van,” Nick said. “Being a mobile home, in a sense, it’s impossible. I almost had to get rid of it and go to a shelter, just over the gas prices.”

Bellevue resident Frederick Wisdom said high prices have changed how his family decides what to do and where to go. He heard about the promotion and thought he “might as well stop by.”

State Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk, the Republican nominee for Nebraska’s open seat in the 1st Congressional District, speaks to a reporter at the Americans for Prosperity event. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

“We don’t travel as much,” Wisdom said. “We eat at home a lot. … Going to work now is just going to work and coming back. Just highway miles and back.” 

What Washington can do

Biden on Wednesday proposed that Congress pass a three-month pause in collecting federal gas taxes. Shelburn described the president’s proposal as a Band-Aid on a bigger problem.

U.S. gas prices remain lower than in many peer nations, Kiplinger reports. Many of the countries where gas costs less subsidize the costs of fuel, including Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait.

In the 8 o’clock hour, more than 23 cars waited in line to get discounted gasoline at Speedy Gas N Stop in Bellevue. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and State Sens. Mike Flood of Norfolk, Lou Ann Linehan of Omaha and John Arch of La Vista greeted people stopping for gas. They said Republicans could help get gas prices under control.  

Ricketts argued for resuming leases to drill on federal land and reviving the Keystone XL pipeline. Flood pushed for domestic drilling and restraining federal spending.

Neither blamed oil companies for taking record profits. Ricketts defended capitalism and said profits help oil companies to invest in future energy production.

“We’re not a communist country,” Ricketts said. “We’re just a place where we should allow the free market to work again … for energy resources to be developed.”

State can help, too

Nebraska Democratic Party chair Jane Kleeb, who helped defeat the pipeline, said Ricketts could ease some of the pain of global gas prices by calling a tax holiday at the pump.

Kleeb said Republicans could also join Democrats in calling for a ban on exporting American oil. 

“Ricketts could also pressure Big Oil to stop price gouging,” Kleeb said. “But no, instead of any meaningful action to help families, Ricketts will perform a PR stunt.”

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also worked as an assignment editor and editorial writer. He was an investigative reporter at KMTV.