Gas prices could fall, thanks to omicron variant

Ron Hurtibise
South Florida Sun Sentinel

There’s a silver lining to the bummer news that dropped — along with the stock market — about the new omicron variant on Black Friday:

Oil prices, which fell along with stock prices, failed to recover on Monday and could remain low enough to bring consumers relief at gas pumps, travel club AAA said in its weekly gas price update on Tuesday.

The drop in oil prices, triggered by fears that the new variant will throttle economic activity around the globe over the coming months, could shave 20 to 25 cents a gallon off the current $3.34 per-gallon average price of unleaded regular, AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said.

The price of U.S. crude oil fell 13% on Friday, closing at $68.15 a barrel — its lowest price since Sept. 9. On Monday, it settled at $69.95 and had fallen further to $67.62 by midmorning on Tuesday.

That’s a big drop compared with just a few weeks ago. Crude reached $77 a barrel on Nov. 9, and gas prices followed suit, climbing just before Thanksgiving.

No immediate relief: Jenkins warned consumers not to expect prices to drop overnight, though.

“Gas prices normally rise like a rocket and fall like a feather,” Jenkins said. “So it could take a couple of weeks before prices at the pump fully reflect the downturn in the futures market.”

Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum

analysis for the price-comparison website GasBuddy.com, said the return of travel restrictions in many nations would reduce demand for fuel and ease supply pressures that have been driving prices to levels not seen in seven years.

Of course, oil prices could stage a comeback if the threat from the omicron variant fails to materialize.

For now, the jury is still out on how the variant will affect demand for oil and gas, De Haan said.

“But so far, Americans can expect the new variant to push gas prices even lower. Beyond the next few weeks, it remains nearly impossible to predict where oil and gas prices will head, though turbulence is guaranteed.”