What is sometimes thought of as a leisurely trip to and from work has recently become an overpriced burden for David Robinson, a fourth-year PhD student in computer science who commutes from Athens to Comer nearly every day.
“I used to spend about $200 a month when gas prices were low, but this month alone, I spent just over $250 on gasoline for my Toyota,” Robinson said.
Gas in Athens is 29.2 cents higher per gallon than it was a year ago, according to GasBuddy, a gas price tracker site.
Average gas prices in Athens-Clarke County on Jan. 30 was $2.51, according to the American Automobile Association. This is a couple cents lower than the national average.
Compared to Georgia, Athens-Clarke County’s average is 6 cents higher than the state’s average and one of the more expensive counties for gas.
The county with the lowest gas price on Jan. 30 was Irwin with an average price of $2.19.
Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said the sudden rise in gas prices can be traced back to the price of oil.
“With oil maintaining strength, gasoline prices have continued to climb in many places, rising to their highest level since Hurricane Harvey dealt a blow to a significant portion of U.S. refining capacity,” said DeHaan in an email.
Around this time in 2015 and 2016, gas was less than $2 per gallon in Georgia, AAA reported. And despite the current jump in prices, they do not compare to 2013 and 2014 when prices were more than $3 a gallon.
Though the state’s average gas prices are not currently ranked highest in the nation, their effect is still felt by commuters and travelers in Athens.
“Graduate students like me who have teaching assistantships only take home $1,150 a month or so after taxes, so car expenses and gasoline in particular represent a significant chunk of a graduate student’s budget,” Robinson said.
Bradley Allen, sophomore nursing major from Oconee County, said inflated gas prices are especially taxing on students.
“While it may not be as high as in other states, it still adds to the financial burden of being a college student,” Allen said.
DeHaan expects the prices to continue rising in increments as a reaction to changes with crude oil inventories.
“I see diminishing chances of the traditional winter relief that accompanies the year’s coldest months,” DeHaan said. “The current price environment may be the floor for what could become a more expensive year than anticipated.”