Why are gas prices so high, again? Is it the summer driving season? Is it a change of political power in Washington? Have fuel taxes risen? Is there a shortage of gasoline? Loosening of COVID restrictions? It’s most likely a perfect combination of all of these things.
The loosing of COVID restrictions has increased demand, with more people returning to work as cases of COVID drop and vaccines increase. Also, more people were traveling for spring break and are planning summer vacations.
Most oil refineries change gasoline formulations from a winter blend to a summer blend. The change over is an EPA requirement. This changeover takes place in March and April and invariably raises the cost of refining and transporting.
The US election has played a role. Since November 2020, the average price per gallon of regular gas has risen by $0.75. It seems like the market thinks the new administration may make changes to current laws and or regulations.
What can you do to save a few dollars during the current fuel situation?
The easiest and most effective way to improve the fuel economy of any car is to modify your driving habits.
- Minimize cold engine operation. To save fuel, start the engine and then drive the car normally to warm the engine to operating temperature more rapidly.
- Drive conservatively. Avoid "jack rabbit" starts, rapid acceleration, and hard braking, which can lower fuel economy by 15 to 30 percent at highway speeds and 10 to 40 percent in stop-and-go traffic.
- Anticipate road conditions. Monitor the traffic ahead and "time" stoplights to maintain momentum and avoid unnecessary acceleration and braking.
- Observe speed limits. Fuel economy peaks at around 50 mph on most cars, then drops off as speeds increase. Reducing highway speeds by 5 to 10 mph can increase fuel economy by 7 to 14 percent.
- Use cruise control. Minimizing speed fluctuations on the highway saves gas. However, never use cruise control on slippery roads as it could cause a loss of vehicle control.
- Use a "fast pass" on toll roads. These electronic transponders save fuel by minimizing or eliminating tollbooth slowdowns and stops.
- Avoid excessive idling. A car engine consumes one quarter to one-half gallon of fuel per hour when idling, but a warm engine only takes around 10 seconds worth of fuel to restart. Where safe to do so, shut off your engine if you will be stopped for more than a minute.
- Plan your trips. Combine errands and route your travel to minimize backtracking. Identify "one-stop" business locations where you can do multiple tasks (banking, shopping, etc.) without extra driving.
- Avoid rush hour. If your employer supports "flex time" work hours, take advantage of this option to commute and run errands during off-peak traffic periods.