Fueling up is getting more expensive, and it’s unclear how long the pain at the pump will last.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine this week caused wild swings in the global energy market and the price of oil reached levels not seen since 2014. President Joe Biden said the U.S. could tap oil reserves to help with rising prices.
“What happens on the other side of the world does and can have consequences,” said Molly Hart, a spokesperson for AAA.
The national average for regular gas this week was $3.53 per gallon, up 20 cents from a month ago and 90 cents from a year ago.
Last February, a gallon of gas cost $2.75 in Chicago. This week, the average price is $3.84 — and some gas stations are charging more than $4 per gallon.
The extra financial burden is forcing many Chicago drivers to change their habits.
“I purposely avoid filling up in Chicago if I can,” said Alex Rogers, a Ukrainian Village resident, who added they’d rather fill up in Wisconsin, where gas is on average 60 cents cheaper per gallon.
Davon Clark, an artist living in South Shore, said he tries to fuel up in Indiana: “On a half tank, it’s five bucks saved, which adds up a ton over the month.”
Despite the recent price hikes, gas in Chicago still isn’t as costly as 10 years ago, when a gallon cost a whopping $4.47 (At that rate, you might as well live in sunny Los Angeles).
Why is gas so painfully expensive now?
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that U.S. gas prices have been steadily increasing since December 2020. Hart, the AAA spokesperson, said the current surge is a supply and demand issue – right now, demand is outpacing supply.
“[The price] can depend on where an oil refinery is. The shortage of truck drivers certainly plays into what we’re paying at the pump,” Hart said. “We’re coming out of COVID-19 [so] there are more people commuting again. There are more people on the road.”
Low supply, high demand and geopolitical power struggles have created volatile fuel prices.
And gas isn’t the only thing that’s gotten more expensive; nearly everything else has gotten pricier.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the consumer price index (CPI) to monitor how the cost of goods and services changes over time. In the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin area, the CPI increased by 6.8% from January 2021 to January 2022. Groceries that used to cost $185 are $200 today. The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses another metric to assess how compensation costs, including wages and salaries, change over time. In 2021, these compensation costs in the Chicago area only increased by 4%.
So, even if you don’t drive, you are still feeling the weight of inflation.
Charmaine Runes is WBEZ’s data/visuals reporter. Follow her @maerunes.