Pennsylvania has been ranked by AAA as one of 11 states in the U.S. with the highest gas prices.
Lehigh University economics professor Mary Deily said there are bound to be fluctuations in gas prices, and these fluctuations depend on how much suppliers respond to the increased demand for oil.
She said oil prices plummeted in March 2020, but the demand for oil has increased significantly over the past year after the country reopened from the pandemic.
“The demand for oil has gone up a lot faster than anybody expected because the recovery has been so much stronger than and quicker than expected,” Deily said.
Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs at AAA East Central, said the current rise in oil prices in the Lehigh Valley has also been linked to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. She said since Russia is a major exporter of crude oil, interruptions to their oil production and exportation will cause gas prices to increase across the world.
Deily said increased gas prices have caused financial concern for Bethlehem locals and Lehigh students.
“It is more expensive to drive and it is more expensive to buy things that use petroleum to make them,” Deily said.
She said the increased gas prices will disproportionately affect Bethlehem’s lower-income population.
However, Deily said there are positive aspects to these increased gas prices.
“From an environmental point of view, I think it is a good thing to increase the price of gas,” Deily said. “Make people use less (gas) by raising prices.”
She said higher gas prices present a good opportunity to explore alternative fuels and encourage people to purchase electric vehicles.
Danyaal Tayyabkhan, ‘23, said he has noticed gas prices increasing in the area. He said he spends about $200 on gas every month now, causing him to reevaluate his spending habits.
“Sometimes I am like ‘okay I just spent $50 or $60 to fill up my tank,’ so I shouldn’t really go and spend that much money on other stuff that weekend,” Tayyabkhan said.
Tayyabkhan said since driving is now going to cost him more money, he will no longer drive around unnecessarily and not go on long drives unless he has to.
Podguski said Lehigh Valley gas prices are currently 85 cents higher than they were last year in the area.
According to an AAA news release, Americans can improve their fuel efficiency and save money on gas by driving the speed limit, reducing trips, avoiding idling and using cruise control when driving.
“It is very hard to predict where the gas prices are going to go because of the geopolitical tensions,” Podguski said. “Russia is one of the leading oil producers globally behind only the United States and Saudi Arabia, so a Russian attack would be met by severe financial sanctions.”