The Pandemic Perk You’ll Miss: Cheaper Gas

by Ann Siock | Staff Writer

SCRANTON — Gas prices have been rising at their fastest rate since 2017 following the storm that hit the midwestern and southern states in late February.

Chair of the Department of Economics and Finance at the University Iordanis Petsas, Ph.D., said this has compounded with the increased rise in demand for oil and gasoline as the economy slowly begins to reopen from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Gas prices are way up because demand is up.” Petsas said. “The economy is rebounding and people are going out more and thus filling up more.”

While there is debate on campus as to the cause of the recent skyrocket in prices, Petsas believes the answer is simply a matter of supply and demand.

“I believe that there are two major drivers for this rise.” Petsas said. “The rising crude oil prices and refinery shutdowns in the winter in the Gulf Coast. Texas is the nation’s largest gas producer. Both production and power generation from gas dropped by about a third during the strong winter storm that caused demand for power and heat to surge […] The nation had low gas prices due to the pandemic. The recent rise will most likely remain, or we may even experience another rise in the long run and may not return back to low pandemic prices for a while.”

These prices could ultimately lead to changes in student lifestyles until the cost of crude oil begins to drop — that is, if it ever does.

Increasing the Cost of Class… and Socialization

Drew Faulkner, sophomore accounting major from Avoca, said he fills his car’s tank once every three to four weeks, and spends roughly $25 to $30 dollars on gas each time. According to Faulkner, the rising gas prices are going to lead to some changes in his day-to-day life until they begin to level out and possibly start to drop.

“On a basic level it would mean I would need to start planning my life around getting as much done in as few trips as possible, such as scheduling all of my classes for one set of days, so taking a full five classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,” Faulkner said. “Beyond that it also means I would start to limit my social interactions more, since the cost of leaving to go hang out with friends has also gone up.”

Gia Soule, senior psychology major currently residing in Montrone Hall, said she will be affected by gas prices as well, even though she is a resident student. Soule fuels up about every other week for around $30 each fill. Rising gas prices are going to limit her use of her car as well as her trips home to see family.

“I won’t be able to afford trips home as I do now if [prices] continue to rise,” Soule said.

What’s the Bigger Picture?

Aside from the direct effects rising prices have on students with cars, Petsas said it is important for everyone to watch the rising prices as they have a larger economic effect.

“It affects everything,” Petsas said. “Consumer spending, retail shopping versus online shopping, the price of airline tickets, etc. It drives up the costs on transportation-focused industries like airlines and trucking. When gas prices are high, we expect to see a drop on consumers’ spending as they spend a larger portion of their income on gasoline.”

These rising prices come at a time when Pennsylvania is among the states leading the U.S. for the highest gas tax. On average, Pennsylvanians pay 77 cents per gallon in tax. Fifty-nine cents of that amount is paid to the state for road repair, among other travel related expenses.

This means that while the national average gas price hovers around $2.80, Pennsylvania’s state average is closer to $3.01, according to AAA’s report.