With more people out driving, metro gas prices on the rise

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and demand for gas dropped, prices plummeted to their lowest level in 15 years.

Missouri was under $2 a gallon for nearly 300 consecutive days. Kansas gas prices dropped, too. Now, the party is over.

“I feel like it’s been going crazy the last couple of months honestly,” commuter Katherine Smith said.

Gas prices have been on the rise since December, slowly draining more money out of people’s pockets.

“Working a minimum wage job, it is definitely hard getting paid seven dollars an hour and having at least three days of my work go to gas prices,” said KU student Ryan Harrell, who is working her way through school.

“It’s definitely going to affect me. I’ve been driving a lot recently so I definitely am going to have to reconsider my routes and try to take the lowest amount of miles because I don’t want to be filling up my tank every week because it’s going to be $30 at least.”

The main driver of the rising prices is simple supply and demand. More people are driving more.

“The pandemic last year killed demand for oil and gas as everybody’s sitting at home,” said Matt Sallee, president of energy investment company Tortoise. “And then you saw prices, you know, drop significantly, and producers then really curtailed their activity.”

Sallee doesn’t expect oil and gas companies, which suffered financially last year, to ramp up production even though demand is increasing.

“They’ve got a lot of ground to make up for,” Sallee said. “So our expectation is that they’re not going to invest in much as much a new supply, but rather use the the profits from higher prices to reduce debt or basically improve their balance sheets.”

Wicked winter weather, which knocked out about 40% of production from U.S. refineries in the Gulf, South and even one in Kansas, is expected to send gas prices even higher.

“So that will show up in the price of the pump, you know, in a couple of weeks,” Sallee said.

When asked if he expects prices to go above $4 a gallon, Sallee said, “Probably not that high, north of three.”

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