October 23, 2021

Relief at the pump

Cheaper gas good for now, but economic impact uncertain

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Stan Edinger of Tully fills his gas tank Saturday at the Circle K in Tully. Gas prices across the country have fallen during the pandemic.

Filling up his tank Saturday at the Circle K gas station in Tully, Stan Edinger said he was glad to see the price dip to $2.06 a gallon, but he was concerned about the implications of falling prices.

“I don’t think anybody needs to do extra traveling right now,” Edinger said. “It’s a little too early to tell, in my opinion. It’s a wait and see game.”

He appreciated the price, he said, but he does not want it to be an incentive for an instant restart to the economy.

“I want to get things going, obviously, but I don’t want to rush into it and then have a relapse,” Edinger said.

In New York, the price dropped to $2.19 per gallon from $2.85 for the third week of April, reports the federal Energy Information Administration. Nationally, the average was $1.81 a gallon, down from $2.84.

Gas prices have been decreasing since the coronavirus pandemic began — matching a 31% drop in the amount of fuel used since January -and crude oil futures dropped below zero, as low as negative $40.32 a barrel — briefly last week, signaling low prices for petroleum products for coming weeks.

Local government officials and residents are unsure about what effects these price drops will mean for Cortland and nearby counties. Much of the county’s sales tax revenue comes from fuel sales.

“It is still too early to know the effect falling gas prices will have on the economy,” said Andrea Herzog, the budget and finance director for Cortland County. “The uncertainty of how long social distancing and quarantine and closed businesses will last adds to this uncertainty.”

Lower demand for gasoline, travel restrictions and the change in how businesses are operating due to the coronavirus pandemic are all behind the price drop, the Energy Information Administration reports.

“It’s a product of the time,” said Cortlandville Supervisor Tom Williams.

The decrease in people regularly filling up their tanks could take a hit on the town’s sales tax income, leading the town to have to look at adjusting its budget, he said, depending on how long the pandemic lasts and what toll it takes on the economy.

“It’s just one of those uncertainties,” he said.

For residents, the lower price of gas hasn’t outweighed the protocols to maintain safety.

Karen Muldowney, who was also filling up her tank at the Circle K, said that while she liked having the lower price, she was concerned about how this would affect other workers.

“It’s nice but I’m worried about the economy and all the jobs that are going to be lost from it,” she said.

With businesses being closed because of the pandemic, she said that Saturday was the first time she filled her gas tank in two weeks, a change from the two to three times a week, and that she has saved hundreds of dollars.

Still, Edinger said he wouldn’t be opposed if prices fell to the EIA’s predicted summer prices.

“I ain’t going to turn it down,” he said.