Sandy: The Rare Natural Disaster That Isn’t Expected to Boost Gas Prices

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Hurricanes are often associated with soaring gas prices, and sometimes even complaints from drivers about price gouging by gas stations as well. Experts, however, say that Sandy’s effects on gas prices will be mild.

Hurricane Sandy hit at a time when gas prices, after a remarkably turbulent year, have been decreasing quite dramatically. According to the latest Energy Information Administration report, the average price for a gallon of regular dropped 12¢ over the past week, reaching $3.57 as of Monday. The size of declines varied widely from state to state, dipping 10¢ in Massachusetts, for instance, and down a whopping 26¢ in California.

Overall, shrinking prices have brought about the lowest prices nationwide in three months. What’s more, we’re almost at the point where prices are on par with those charged 12 months prior. Tuesday’s AAA Fuel Gauge Report puts the current national average at $3.53, which is just 9¢ higher than the average one year ago at this time. (The current average is also around 25¢ cheaper than it was one month ago.) By comparison, the national average in mid-September 2012 was $3.88, a hefty 28¢ more than the same time a year before.

(MORE: In the Eye of the Storm: Capturing Sandy’s Wrath)

While it’s impossible to predict the effects of any natural disaster, drivers have come to expect that a major hurricane is likely to be followed (and in some cases, preceded) by soaring prices at the pump. Toward the end of the summer, for instance, Hurricane Isaac caused rising gas prices around the country. Prices jumped in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina as well.

While Sandy has left a path of epic destruction in its wake, the storm doesn’t appear likely to leave behind dramatically higher gas prices. Per one gas expert cited by USA Today:

“We have been on a steady road toward cheaper gas prices nationwide. The storm could mean a small wobble to the upside for a few days, but I suspect prices will resume their downward trend,” said Tom Kloza, chief analyst at Oil Price Information Systems.

GasBuddy’s Patrick DeHaan wrote that as of Monday, he was “not expecting a significant jump in prices in the affected areas.” That’s because of anticipations that refinery shutdowns in the Mid-Atlantic region would be short-lived, and that because drivers in major metropolitan areas have been staying home, demand for gasoline has sloughed off.

(MORE: Hurricane Sandy to Cause at Least $20 Billion in Damage — And Possibly Much More)

At CNN Money, Kloza likewise predicted that any rise in gas prices would be counterbalanced by a huge falloff in demand:

“My read is that this storm is going to be one of the biggest demand destroyers in my lifetime. It’s destroying a lot of demand for jet fuel, for gasoline, for diesel,” he said.

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