Gas prices increase as travel habits stay steady

With the rise and fall of the price of gasoline in recent months, consumers are often in for a surprise every time they go to fill up.

During the past three weeks alone, national gas prices have increased by 20 cents per gallon, according to the Energy Information Administration.

As of March 12, national prices jumped back up to $2.68 for a gallon, according to the administration.

In July of last year, average national regular reformulated gasoline prices hit a high of $3.11 per gallon. According to the administration, from that point on, prices have dipped as low as $2.26 per gallon in January.

There are several possible explanations to the continuous fluctuation of gas prices.

Marketing professor Akshay Rao studies gas prices and linked the volatile price of oil to a case of supply versus demand.

“Gasoline is refined crude oil, which is why the price of oil has such an effect on gas prices,” Rao said. “The supply of oil is dependant on how much and how quickly it can be pumped out of the ground and shipped to the refineries.”

Rao said the supply of oil can be harmed, but not easily enhanced. The demand for oil is a different situation because people around the country strongly rely on transportation.

According to University Parking and Transportation Services, approximately 24,000 people drive to campus each day.

Brian Ramnarain, a mechanical engineering sophomore, said he relies on his Land Rover to get to school. If gas prices drastically increased, he said he would not change his dependence on transportation.

Greg Balfanz, an economics sophomore who also relies on his car to get to work, said he thinks the same way.

“If gas prices went up, I would just fit it into my budget,” he said.

While it is clear that the need for transportation remains strong, the lower than anticipated need for heating oil earlier in the winter has resulted in slumping crude oil prices, said Alfred Marcus, professor of strategic management and organization.

“Earlier in the year we were experiencing an ultrawarm winter and the demand for heating oil was way down,” he said.

With recent lower temperatures, the demand for heating oil – the substance used to heat homes – has seen an increased demand, Marcus said.

“Weather has played a very big role in the changing gas prices,” Marcus said. “About half of the current run-up in gas prices is attributable to the weather.”

A possible cause of warmer weather in previous years may also be affecting gas prices.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency Web site, global warming may be a reason for this winter’s warm weather.

According to the agency, the pollution vehicles emit as a byproduct from burning gasoline is one of the leading contributors of the phenomenon known as global warming.

“As gasoline prices drop due to rising temperatures, there will be more people driving (and increasing pollution),” Rao said. “It’s a revolving cycle.”

-Freelance Editor Yelena Kibasova welcomes comments at [email protected]