Gas price hike linked to pipeline cyberattack, travel demand
An increasing demand for summer travel combined with the cyberattack of a major pipeline have been attributed to surging gas prices nationwide.
GasBuddy, a travel and navigation app that covers more than 150,000 gas stations in North America, notes that people have more vacation options than they did last year. With more people vaccinated and the economy opening, 57% of Americans plan to take at least one road trip this summer, up substantially from 2020's 31%, according to GasBuddy's annual summer travel survey.
The biggest roadblock? High gas prices.
Going into Memorial Day Weekend, the national average price of gasoline was expected to be $2.98 per gallon, a slight drop from recent prices but a $1.02 increase over the holiday weekend last year. This would also be the highest gas prices have been on Memorial Day since 2014 when they reached $3.66.
Gas prices on Memorial Day Weekend dropped to an average of $2.75 in 2015, then $2.33 in 2016 before climbing slightly to $2.37 in 2017 then $2.97 in 2018. Prices on Memorial Day Weekend 2019 dropped slightly to $2.83 before plunging to $1.96 in 2020 amidst the pandemic.
Exacerbating the 2021 price spike is the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline just weeks ahead of the busy travel season, GasBuddy said. The pipeline delivers 45% of the gasoline supply to the Southeast and was shut down for six days causing massive panic and fuel shortages.
"The numbers are clear: People are itching to travel as the nation recovers from COVID-19 but are frustrated with some of the highest holiday weekend gas prices in quite some time," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. "Gas prices have been increasing for months due to the continued rise in gasoline demand as a myriad of destinations reopen ahead of the summer driving season. The Colonial Pipeline shutdown only highlighted how much more reliant consumers have become on gasoline since the pandemic hit."
De Haan went on to say that drivers don't need to worry too much though, as there is an end in sight. Prices should ease up, mainly in areas where the pipeline challenges were most severe. But he went on to caution drivers that a rebound may happen as we approach midsummer, should gasoline demand rise to near-record levels.
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