COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -When preparing to travel this spring and summer, you should prepare to spend more at the pump. For the first time since 2014, the average national gas prices are topping $3.00.
Columbus driver Najum Wani said one benefit of working from home and limiting travel during the COVID-19 pandemic has been budgeting less for gas.
“We’d have to fill up on the way once every week, at least,” he said of his pre-pandemic commute. “Now it’s once every month, maybe, per car.”
Like many Americans, Wani’s pre-pandemic routine is slowly returning. He’s fully vaccinated and planning to transition back to the office soon. The father of one is also expecting twins next month and looking to add a larger vehicle to his growing family’s fleet.
“I was just thinking if I should go for a minivan that has higher gas mileage or an economy setting, just exactly for this reason,” he said of the climbing gas prices.
The price per gallon jumped this week in some Southeastern U.S. states after a cyber attack shut down the Colonial Pipeline. The company and Department of Energy are working to restore service, but the interruption has caused a delay in moving fuel and sparked widespread panic buying.
Experts point to economic recovery as a bigger contributing factor to higher prices.
“We’re going to pay more this summer. And that’s because all of us are trying to get outside,” said Patrick De Haan, the Head of Petroleum Analysis at GasBuddy.
De Haan explained low demand and travel restrictions last year forced suppliers to cut down gasoline production. It’s now struggling to keep up with the spike in demand, as much of the country loosens restrictions and Americans are more anxious to get out of the house.
“U.S. oil production fell significantly. It is still lower than pre-pandemic levels. That’s part of the reason why we are here,” he said. “On the other hand, demand has surged in the past couple of months.”
He expects the demand to continue growing as the weather improves and more people let down their guards.
“Almost everything’s reopened. Part of that is thanks to vaccines. But that’s why prices are much higher because demand has rebounded much faster than supply has,” he said.
De Haan recommended shopping around for the best gas prices and saving gas by consolidating trips for errands and limiting bulky attachments, like roof racks and trailers. He said anyone planning a vacation to the southeastern states affected by the pipeline attack should consider delaying their trip.
He also warned the prices will likely climb into Memorial Day Weekend and beyond.
“Really how long we stay here is going to be contingent on how much gasoline Americans consume this summer,” he said.
As of Wednesday, AAA showed Ohio and Franklin County’s average gas prices at $2.87 per gallon. It’s a full dollar higher than the state’s average one year ago. The highest recorded average price in the Columbus metro area was $4.18 in May of 2011.