Gas is getting cheap — if you had some place to go
For Shrewsbury resident Jerry Hess, who drives 45 minutes to Harrisburg Hospital to work as an emergency room nurse, cheap gas prices have been a bright spot in an otherwise bleak reality of the coronavirus outbreak.
"This has really helped me financially, with gas prices the way they are," Hess said. "It's one positive out of this big negative of COVID-19."
Along with many other effects on the American economy, the outbreak of coronavirus has caused gas prices to fall nationwide at unprecedented and historic rates, according to Allison Mac, a petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.
In York County, gas prices fell 8.1 cents per gallon in a week's time and averaged $2.10 per gallon from March 23 to March 27.
On March 16, Gov. Tom Wolf declared a state of emergency that closed all “nonessential businesses” in the state, followed up by stay-at-home order last Friday that includes York County.
The lack of commuters going to work and shoppers driving to stores, added to people practicing social distancing, there is less of a need for filling up at the gas station, Mac said.
"Every city and every town, gas prices have plummeted," Mac said. "Because there's so little demand, there's just not a lot of people spending money."
The biggest factor that determines how much gasoline costs is what the supplier pays per barrel for oil.
Right now, a single oil barrel is $20. To put it into perspective, Mac said, before the 2009 recession hit, oil sold for $145 per barrel.
Prices are then determined by gas station owners, who factor in oil prices, state taxes and proximity to the oil supply, such as refineries or pipelines, Mac said.
Gas prices began to fall Feb. 20, following a price war sparked by Russia and Saudi Arabia after Russia vetoed an OPEC plan to decrease production by 1 million barrels per day, according to Forbes.
Following Russia's response, Saudi Arabia slashed prices and increased its own oil production by 10 million barrels per day, Forbes reported.
Current predictions estimate prices will continue to drop as long as Russia and Saudi Arabia continue to fight, Mac said.
"We're going to see prices drop even further down. It's going to be even more common for you to see that $1 sign," Mac said. "It's very possible for the average price in York to go below $2."
For the average consumer looking to refuel their cars, it isn't such a bad thing.
Hess, who was filling his car at a Rutter's in Shrewsbury, paid $11 for five gallons of gas to fuel his Hyundai Sonata.
"$1.99 is the lowest I've seen it since I've lived up here," said Hess, who moved to Shrewsbury in 1990. "So it's really a wonderful feeling on that end."
— Reach Tina Locurto at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.