Stagnating gas prices still affecting commuter students, faculty

Relief may still be far away for commuters as gas prices cannot seem to shake the $3 to $4 per gallon price range. 

Lila Boudissa is a senior at SUNY Oswego who started commuting during the fall 2022 semester and commutes about a mile to campus five days a week. Boudissa said that because buying gas in town had become too expensive, she started buying gas at BJ’s. 

“It’s cheaper there, if you have a membership,” Boudissa said, adding that the lines for the gas are longer because of the price. “I don’t know if a lot of commuter students do that or if it’s just unique to me,” Boudissa said. 

Boudissa currently lives at home with her mom and they share one vehicle between them. She says she does not plan on getting her own vehicle until it becomes necessary.

“I only drive it to campus really,” Boudissa said. “Right now it wouldn’t make any sense anyway.”

The BJ’s in Clay has cheaper gas than gas stations in Oswego such as Fastrac. As of May 1, customers can buy gas at BJ’s for $3.41 per gallon of regular, while at Fastrac it costs $3.73 for non-members. That 32 cent difference contrasts greatly to comparing Fastrac with Byrne Dairy’s prices, where the largest gap is 10 cents between their non-ethanol prices. 

John Kane is a professor of economics at SUNY Oswego. He said that current trends in gas prices depend in large part on OPEC policy. 

“And OPEC had cut back on production. Oil prices were falling. Gas prices were falling,” Kane said.

“But then OPEC a few months ago decided to cut back on production somewhat. And we’ve seen prices come back up a bit.”

The numbers collected by the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) in St. Louis, Missouri, support this. On March 6, the U.S. Regular Conventional Gas Price was $3.28 and jumped back up to $3.48 as of May 1. 

“And making all that worse is the whole situation in Ukraine, because Russia did supply a lot of energy throughout Europe,” Kane said. “And with the bans on sale of Russian energy products, most of Europe, it’s put quite a bit of a hit there.”

Since the invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24 last year, FRED data shows that prices jumped 77 cents from $3.41 just days before to $4.18 a few weeks later on March 14, 2022. 

The United States has seen difficult gas price hikes before. Kane said that the Arab oil embargo put the U.S. in difficult times but survived. That price hike of 39 cents to 53 cents during 1973-1974 adjusted for inflation is equivalent to going from $2.58 to $3.13 in today’s money, a 55 cent jump.

bar chart comparing gas prices

 “We are in a global energy market. So if energy prices go up in one country, they go up pretty much everywhere,” Kane said. “Resources will flow to wherever they can get them at the best price.”

With gas prices not dipping too drastically in one direction or the other in recent months, alternative methods of travel such as electric cars may become more mainstream over time. But for college students that is not very likely due to the costs of the vehicles. 

Sari Fordham is an assistant professor of creative writing at SUNY Oswego. Fordham’s commute is roughly 47 miles coming from Syracuse, using a little less than two gallons of gas round trip.

“That was a choice that I was very conscious of as an environmentalist to make,” Fordham said. “I knew it would be a long commute, I was a little concerned about that.”

She and her family have a hybrid vehicle but hope to save up and get an electric vehicle someday. Fordham said that the hybrid vehicle is reserved for whoever has the longer commute, and the family’s other vehicle is for shorter distances to save on filling up. 

“If the money instead of going to prop up fossil fuel companies was transferred to helping college students afford electric cars,” Fordham said, “you’d then spend less money.”

Fordham said she received and filled out a survey about commuting from the campus last fall. 

“I’m super hopeful that SUNY Oswego will provide more opportunities for plugging in those electric cars,” Fordham said, “so that those who have e-cars will be able to recharge and it’s more of an incentive to make climate safe choices.”

Fordham also said living in California and paying for gas was painful even though her commute was much shorter. While purchasing a hybrid vehicle has more than paid for itself, Fordham said, “we still needed that economic incentive to make the right environmental choice.”