Gas Prices spike cause commuter concerns

Increase in gas prices prompted by multiple factors including war in Ukraine

Written By Caitlyn Scott, Co-News Editor

Students, faculty and staff who rely on personal transportation to campus have continued to be hit with increasing gas prices.

In early March, Pittsburgh drivers were paying an average of $4.21 a gallon of gas, which is 21 cents above the average national cost of $4.

Point Park has a large number of commuter students and hundreds of commuting faculty and staff, and the campus community is feeling the impact of high prices.  

“I think they’re incredibly high, and it’s definitely not fun filling up your tank, especially because I’m a commuter that goes to school and work,” senior public relations and advertising major Gianna DiPaolo said. “But, the reality of it is I need gas when I need it, so I just have to deal with the prices.” 

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the highest recorded average price within Pittsburgh for unleaded gas reached $4.35 on March 10, with diesel reaching $5.45 on March 15. 

“I feel it’s understandable with everything going on, when the prices go up usually there’s a reason,” freshman multimedia major Victoria Zaluski said. “I might not enjoy it, but I would love for it to go back down.”  

With prices continuing to rise, Pennsylvania legislators have proposed a bill to reduce the current gas tax that is added on per gallon of gas pumped. 

By eliminating the gas tax — and not initial “gas tax holidays” that would only temporarily reduce rates — riders could save 57 cents per gallon of gas, helping riders reduce costs. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, the demand for gasoline plummeted after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies slowed production rates to support economic prices. Worker shortages have impacted the industry’s production ability to meet current public demand.

Along with pandemic challenges, the current Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused a major jump in prices seen at the pump while pandemic related restrictions continue to be lifted across the nation. 

With oil buyers attempting to replace Russian barrels of crude oil (unrefined petroleum) in boycott of Russian imports, investors have begun paying record premiums for barrels, with the U.S. price allegedly topping $110 per barrel of crude oil purchased. 

President Joe Biden announced on March 8 that the United States would ban all Russian oil imports and other energy products in retaliation for the country’s invasion of Ukraine.  The ban, which the Biden administration originally hesitated to commit to, was met with bipartisan support. However, with gas prices remaining high, Republicans  continue to push the administration to restart construction on the United States Keystone XL Pipeline. 

“Stop importing from Russia, start producing more,” Texas Representative Dan Cresnshaw said in a tweet made one day before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

The  project would have extended the pre-existing pipeline already in place that could have carried over “830,000 barrels of crude oil from Alberta Canada, to Nebraska.” Despite this, global oil production would only have experienced a 1% increase, according to a CBS News article published on March 17.

Currently, Russia is the world’s “second-largest exporter of crude oil,” with the United States being the first. 

With the continuation of the pipeline being once again blocked by the Biden administration, along with controversy over the potential aid that could have been provided from it, Americans could continue to see high prices at the pumps.

With this, students and faculty have voiced mixed opinions pertaining to changes in price in comparison to pre-pandemic times, along with concerns over how prices could potentially affect their commute to campus. 

“I drive a Mini Cooper that gets really good miles per gallon [MPG] so, I can’t complain as much as others,” DiPaolo said. “However, I do miss being able to fill my tank for $20.”

Although this is the case for DiPaolo, she says that the higher rates have affected her commute to campus. 

“I’m a commuter, and I’ve skipped some classes because I didn’t want to fill my tank [due to the higher prices],” DiPaolo said. “I’m sorry to my professors.” 

Like DiPaolo, Zaluski said that high prices have made commuting difficult. 

“I feel like for the prices, I’m not getting enough, and always filling up. Between going to work, and commuting to college, I’m spending a lot of money,” Zaluski said. “This has definitely impacted students and personally myself. I started commuting this semester, and not only do I have to pay for expensive gas, but also parking.” 

Accounting professor Cheryl Clark says that although the rise in prices has caused many inconveniences, the changes are something that are not able to be individually controlled. 

“To me, I don’t really have an opinion – it is what it is,” Clark said. “I cannot do anything personally about the price of a gallon, but I can modify my behavior to reduce the total amount of gallons of gas I consume.” 

Clark says Gasoline is what accountants call a ‘variable cost,’ as it is a cost that remains constant on a per gallon basis for each fill-up.

“The total cost to me changes by how many gallons I use,” Clark said. “If I use a lot of gallons my cost will be high. If I don’t use a lot of gallons, my cost will be low. Thankfully, if I control how many miles I drive, I can control my total cost.”

Along with this, Clark says that the increase in prices could help people use less gasoline, leading to society no longer relying as heavily on fossil fuels. 

“Personally, I think it would be a very good idea to figure out a way to use less gasoline,” Clark said. “If the price gets and stays high long enough, people will be motivated to do that. In the long run, I think we need to find ways to wean ourselves off this fossil fuel. There should be better options for public transportation and people should have more incentives to use it. There should be more and better incentives for individuals to drive non-petroleum powered vehicles. Even if the government intervenes in the short term to create artificial price reduction in the market price of gasoline, there will always be some type of problem that crops up.”