An arm and a leg for gas


Alyssa Abke, Editor

Why do we care so much about the price of gas when we are willing to spend our entire savings account at college bars each Saturday night? Most local places in the Minneapolis area are charging about $4.00 per gallon, but other states, like California, are well above $6.00 already. Our intense interest in gas prices originates in the fact that we are constantly indulged in the bright neon signs on our daily commute to work, and gas, unlike Blarney’s karaoke night, is something that most college students don’t view as a reward at the end of a long week flooded by midterms.

The spike in gas prices continues to have a very real impact on lower-income demographics, which many students at expensive institutions like the University of Minnesota are a part of. With many students also growing up far away from the main campus, it can be even harder to balance family life while maintaining a stable bank account at a young age. According to the Wall Street estimate, a typical family could reach additional costs up to $2,000 each year as a result of gas prices alone.

Despite the price of crude oil recently falling from $123 back below $100 a barrel, AAA stated that most gas prices have only fallen a couple of pennies since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Due to the shock of gas prices, one in three American adults says that they have already heavily dialed back in their car usage.

Gas prices continue to hit new costly records each week, leaving the typical “broke college student” in even more financial hardship, but who is to blame for this ongoing dilemma?

A huge unsuspected factor of soaring gas prices is the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in the pandemic, the demand for gasoline plunged as many Americans were in lockdown. While we enjoyed low gas prices, sometimes even reaching below a dollar, this also led to a rapid increase in demand for gasoline as the economy recovered and people returned to driving.

With the low demand that accompanied the pandemic, OPEC and other nations like Russia actually decided to cut production by 10 million barrels, which is around 10% of the world’s amount of supply. Although the United States was quick to turn around and get out of the house after the production, OPEC and oil-producing nations were well behind on getting back to production, and it will likely take a long time before average people are able to finally see their attempts to get back on their feet.

Right now, the Republican party chooses to blame President Joe Biden for these prices. Most liberal news sources will say that the statement is outlandish; however, there might be some truth to it that left-wing extremists care to admit. Oil and gas drilling has increased under Biden, but the small amounts of rigs, trucks, and labor that are needed to supply oil to the average American make it hard to see the increased amount. During Biden’s first one hundred days in office, he also signed more bills than any other president to place an emphasis on greener alternative motives of transportation of electric vehicles. It is nice to see an emphasis placed on environmental policies in the United States, but doing this also provides oil producers less incentive to prioritize an acceleration in oil production.

Most importantly, the spike in oil is the result of U.S. sanctions on Russia, and it manages to simultaneously affect the global market. In early March, President Biden took aim at Russia’s main source of financial profit, gas, and announced that the United States would ban Russian oil and gas imports. According to De Haan, the United States imported less than 10% of its oil and gas from Russia, but the transcending gas prices are the result of a larger issue in the global oil market.

He also stated, “When the U.S. issues sanctions, that has wide ramifications on the ability of Russia to export oil. We don’t import a lot, but somebody else does and we are making it difficult for Russian oil to flow to the global market, and prices are reacting to that.”

It will likely be a very long time before we start to see gas prices drop again. As for now, I will justify spending an arm and a leg on gas by telling myself that I am indirectly supporting Ukraine. It is a privilege to fill up a gas tank in a car I purchased knowing full well it would need a lot of gas to drive from my college apartment to work every week. It is a privilege to run around doing errands in my Buick instead of spending my day cramped in a bomb shelter wondering how I will get my next meal. It is a privilege that we in America, even in the midst of record-high gas prices, can afford some of the cheapest gas in the world.