MARYLAND (WDVM) — With the recent gas price spike, many people are looking for answers — who’s to blame, how long it will last, and how high it can go. And when you ask most people why they think gas prices spiked so quickly, they usually point toward the tension overseas.
“To me, it has to do with the war,” Kierra Allen, a Hagerstown resident, answered. “But they’re just crazy high, you know? And I don’t wanna walk so I’m gonna pay it, but they’re super high.”
And to some extent, the war does play a role in the problem.
“It’s important to keep in mind that oil is traded as a global commodity,” said Nikos Zirogiannis, an environmental economist at Indiana University. “Any disruption in oil supply affects everyone in the world.”
But even though these issues were worsened by Russia’s attack on Ukraine, soaring gas prices were probably already in the cards for the United States.
“Only about 8% of total U.S. oil imports came from Russia in 2021,” said Zirogiannis. “This is a relatively small amount compared to 51% that came from Canada in the same year.”
As Morgan Dean, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, explained, “As we saw the drop in the Omicron cases towards the end of last year into the beginning of this year, there are a lot of economies around the globe that were kind of waiting for that to happen to make that sprint back to where they were pre-pandemic and in 2019. That sprint has created a lot of demand for crude oil.”
This demand has definitely hit the average driver hard at the pump. And the extra strain on our wallets likely won’t end with gas prices. According to Dean, the increased cost of diesel will likely have a trickle-down effect on many other industries and jack up prices across the board, as we’ve seen similar consequences in the past when gas prices were high.
“Most drivers never even look because they don’t pay for it,” Dean said. “[Diesel’s] what all these tractor-trailers are using on the roadway. They’re now paying $1 more for diesel than they were paying just a month ago per gallon. All of that is costing them that much more and at some point, they’re gonna have to pass that on to the stores they’re delivering it to, it’s ultimately going to pass it on to the customer.”
Dean also advised customers to watch out for “shrinkflation” — which is when a product stays the same price, but the packaging gets smaller or less of the product is included in each unit.
But prices are dropping — for now. The cost of a barrel of oil fell in early March, and gas prices started to go down as well. Although it may be a while before the spike truly levels out.
“It takes a while for it to get to the pumps,” said Dean. “The old saying out there is pump prices go up like a rocket right after crude oil prices start to go up, but then come back down like a feather or a leaf — which is much much slower. And we see that happen all the time.”
In the meantime, to maximize the number of miles you get per gallon, Dean recommended combining your errands into one big trip, avoiding idling your car for long periods of time, and removing junk from your car to lower the weight it’s carrying.