As the summer travel season approaches, price increases at the gas pump are reminding everyone how unpredictable the oil market can be.
According to the American Petroleum Institute, the average price per gallon of gasoline has increased by 32.5 cents since the beginning of this year.
“I was teasing my friends,” said Steve Polzin, director of the mobility research program at USF. “I said ‘Oh gas prices are too high — I wont be able to mow the lawn this summer’.”
“I only get like $5 to $6 (of gas) at a time,” said anthropology student Tim Schoonober. “Normally I’d fill (my tank) up.”
According to howstuffworks.com, several factors, including the price of crude oil, government and state taxes, refining and distribution and marketing costs, influence U.S. gas prices.
According to the Energy Information Agency, an additional 2.5 million barrels of crude oil are projected to be consumed daily for 2005.
This will amount to 84.7 million barrels per day.
Toping this year’s forecasted demand for oil is China, accounting for 40 percent of the world’s increase.
Forecasts for U.S. demand are supposedly 14 percent.
Rising gas prices for this month can be attributed to late crude oil price increases from the winter of 2004.
Besides oil prices, there are other unexpected factors that can affect the price of gasoline.
For example, last year’s hurricanes helped to sustain a lengthy period of high-priced gasoline.
Will Wednesday’s deadly explosion at the BP oil refinery in Texas City, Texas sway prices this year?
“Depending on how much of the plant was damaged and how long it takes to get back online, there may be some effect in the summer,” said Rick Bowersoxs, graduate student and former corporate officer for Bakersfield Energy Resources.
According to an article from the Salt Lake Tribune, the Texas City refinery is responsible for 3 percent of the nation’s gas supply.
Currently, refiners are producing at near 100 percent, and concern now centers on a possible decline in production.
If the price of gas continues to increase, we may have to rethink how we spend our money on fuel.
“I think you’ll start seeing some subtle changes in behavior as the price creeps up,” Polzin said. “Things like boating and recreational uses of fuel might start to be impacted in the relatively near future, and I think we will start to see an impact on vehicle purchases in particular.”
Pre-med student Carmen Floyd plans her trips in advance so that she does not make multiple trips within the same area.
“If I have shopping or bills to pay, I make sure I get all of that taken care of as I’m coming or going.”
Still, today’s gas rates are not that expensive when considering gas prices on a global perspective.
“I feel bad that I want my gas to be cheap because I know that there’s a country that depends on the fact that they charge more for gas,” said USF senior Amy Sheckells.
“We are paying $2.10 per gallon right now, while the United Kingdom pays about $5 per gallon,” Bowersox said. “As long as gasoline is cheap there is nothing to drive demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles.”
So in the meantime, how can we get the most out of our gas-guzzling SUVs?
To find the cheapest gas in town, Gasbuddy.com is an excellent source. Area gas stations are posted by zip-code, from least to most expensive on their Web site.
Before going to the beach, call 511 in order to avoid heavy traffic situations. Their service provides the most recent traffic information on Tampa Bay’s roadways and best of all, it’s free.
“They’ll prompt you and tell you what the conditions are,” said Philip Winters, director for the transportation demand management program.
Interested in cutting down the cost of the commute to school? A carpool system for USF students is on the horizon.
“We have a graduate student who is doing her thesis on the development of an online ride matching system for our campus where people could find other students, particularly people with similar schedules,” Winters said. “This will hopefully give some options that will allow people to carpool on a semester basis, one-time basis or for a long period of time. The system is still in development, but if it works we hope to roll it out in the coming year sometime,” he said.