From the roads to the gas pump, Fernando Galdznez has noticed a change.
“There’s a lot more people out, definitely,” said the New Britain resident.
Gas prices have steadily increased as the pandemic improves, restrictions are relaxed and more people leave their homes. In Connecticut, prices are up 22 cents in a month, and just eight cents this week, according to AAA. The average price for a gallon of gasoline in the state was $2.60 on Friday.
“They’ve been going up. They’ve been going up,” said Galdznez.
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“We are now above and beyond what we were paying a year ago,” said Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy Head Petroleum Analyst.
Gas prices, up five cents nationally at the beginning of the week are expected to continue to rise over the next 12 days after winter weather put the freeze on refineries in the south.
“This is further complicating the COVID-19 pandemic-induced economic crisis,” said Dr. Brian Marks, an economics professor at the University of New Haven.
In Texas, 20% of U.S. refinery capacity was put offline to preserve electricity for the public.
“We’re talking about millions of barrels per day of capacity. That’s going to cause the national average to rise a total of 10 to 20 cents over the next couple of weeks,” he explained.
The pain at the pump is adding insult to injury for those already struggling to make ends meet.
“Either you’re up here or you’re in the food line. There’s like no more in between or in the middle anymore. Times are tough,” said Robert Santerre, of Newington.
Paulette Peterkin said work is finally picking back up, but now she’s faced with paying more to get to her job.
“We’re paying more for less it seems,” said the Hartford woman.
Those still working from home aren’t immune as the cost of home heating oil is also on the rise.
“I’ve certainly seen the oil heat go up, probably 10%, 15% since last month’s bill,” said Norman Dorval of New Britain.
“There are certain segments of the economy, certain income-earning brackets that have to still drive to work. So, while they may have family members staying at home, they have to drive. So, they’re getting hit on the home heating front and they’re getting hit on the gasoline front,” explained Marks.
The price of oil, just $35 in October, is now $60, pushing up the price of everything from gas to groceries.
“For a little while here, you were able to make ends meet,” Santerre said. “A lot of people are struggling.”
Buckle Up for Bumpy Ride
De Haan said he expects a small dip in prices when the refineries get back online and resume production but said they will pause again when they start spring maintenance and switch over to more expensive summer gasoline, pushing prices back up.
With the way oil prices are going, he predicts the price at the pump could reach close to $3 by Memorial Day weekend. However, Saudi Arabia has indicated it may increase output, which he said could prevent prices from going that high.
Marks also pointed out that U.S. talks with Iran could have a positive impact on gas prices in the future.