The national average for a gallon of gas is below $2 gallon for the first time in four years. Pump prices continue their freefall due to the coronavirus and the ongoing oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. For the week, the national average for regular unleaded drops 11 cents to $1.99 a gallon. The Oregon average tumbles a dime to $2.70.
The national average is at its lowest price since March 2016, and the Oregon average is at its lowest price since June 2017.
The decline is due to COVID-19’s chilling effect on the global economy and the crude oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Crude has plummeted to $20/bbl – a closing price not seen since 2002. For the last 52 weeks, crude oil (West Texas Intermediate) has averaged $56/bbl.
“AAA expects gas prices to keep dropping as cheap crude combines with the shrinking demand for gas as people stay home due to the coronavirus outbreak. The national average will likely fall to $1.75 or less in April while the Oregon average should decline to $2.50 or less,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho.
Oregonians can temporarily pump their own gas due to the coronavirus outbreak. Oregon State Fire Marshall Jim Walker made the announcement in a news release. Stations aren’t required to offer self-serve gas, but it is allowed until Aril 11 in order to reduce contact that could spread COVID-19, and ensure essential workers have access to fuel during potential staffing shortages at gas stations.
Demand for gas is down substantially, decreasing to levels that are typically seen during the winter driving season, not in early spring. While demand is diminishing, COVID-19 is not impacting the U.S. gasoline supply. The U.S. has an unusual amount of winter-blend gasoline still available for this time of year. This caused the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to extend the sale of winter-blend past the May 1 deadline to May 20. The agency said they would continue to monitor and may extend the waiver again.
“Delaying the switch-over to summer-blend gasoline will help keep pump prices low as summer-blend is more expensive to produce,” adds Dodds. The difference between summer- and winter-blend gasolines is how easily the fuel evaporates at a given temperature. The more volatile a gasoline, the easier it evaporates. Winter-blend fuel must be able to evaporate at low temperatures for the engine to operate properly, especially when the engine is cold. Summer-blend gasoline has a lower volatility to prevent excessive evaporation when outside temperatures rise. Reducing the volatility of summer gas decreases emissions that can contribute to unhealthy ozone and smog levels.