When the pandemic hit in 2020, demand for gas dropped dramatically. Other than essential workers, many people stopped commuting to work either because their businesses closed or they could work remotely. Domestic flights in the United States were down 48.8% compared to 2019, and bookings for future travel made in January 2021 were down 70% compared to the previous year according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This plummet in business prompted the reduction in oil production.
In 2022, however, mask fatigue set in. With weaker COVID-19 strains emerging, people grew tired of being homebound and started traveling again. The demand increased at a far faster pace than was expected, leading to a price increase in gasoline this spring. The final tip of the iceberg emerged when the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine caused the price per barrel to spike dramatically, causing long lines at gas stations and unprecedentedly high prices.
President Biden acknowledged early on that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could result in higher gasoline prices in the United States but reassured Americans that his “administration is using every tool at its disposal to protect American families and businesses from rising prices at the gas pump, taking active steps to bring down the costs.” Biden announced the release of a million barrels of oil a day from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next six months which has helped stabilize the price of crude oil. The government is also currently looking for energy products from other sources: the Biden administration has been working at improving diplomatic relations with Venezuela, which has been banned from selling oil to the US since 2018. However, all these efforts will ultimately not bring relief in the short term as, historically, the price of gas usually goes up faster than it comes down, especially in the midst of the largest European conflict since WWII.
With gas prices soaring above $6 per gallon, Californians are anxiously wondering when they will see the numbers come down. The rising prices contribute to higher costs of food and household supplies. In March, Governor Newsom proposed “$2 billion in relief for free public transportation for three months, pausing a portion of the sales tax rate on diesel, and suspending the inflationary adjustment on gas and diesel excise tax.” His plans also include a tax refund in the form of $400 in debit cards for registered vehicle owners, with up to two per individual. As government officials are working to provide assistance, the best way to combat the increase in prices is for everyone to do their part in conserving resources.
Students can choose to walk or bike to school or the local stores. They can also plan their purchases so that they minimize their trips to the mall. Using Gas Buddy and Gas Guru to find the lowest gas prices nearby can help save money. Several credit cards, including Costco Visa, offer a generous percent cash back as rewards. Adjusting how speeding up or braking is done can be more fuel efficient. According to Edmunds, driving at a constant speed by using cruise control can save up to 14% versus constantly changing lanes, accelerating, and decelerating. While government proposals can take months to pass or implement, individuals may find faster relief in their gas expenses with these recommendations.