Gas prices were already on an upward creep when Hurricane Harvey barreled into the Texas coastline this weekend. Before the storm was a blip on radar screens, the summer driving season was contributing to creeping gas prices. AAA projected that as Labor Day nears, drivers would see “some of the highest prices at the pump this year.”
Now drivers may see prices rise further due to fallout from Hurricane Harvey — although there is still plenty that savvy drivers can do to slash their gas spending.
How Hurricane Harvey could impact gas prices
The low-lying stretch of the Gulf of Mexico’s coastline that runs from Corpus Christi, Texas, to the city of Lake Charles in western Louisiana is home to nearly one-third of the country’s oil-refining capacity, according to the Associated Press. Several oil refineries in Hurricane Harvey’s path shut down prior to the storm’s arrival.
The biggest threat to these refineries is not wind but flooding and power outages.
Andy Lipow, president of consultant Lipow Oil Associates, told the AP on Saturday, “The biggest driver of how much this will increase gas prices is how much rain falls in Houston during the next three days.”
Tom Kloza, an analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, told the AP he expected gas prices to rise by 5 to 15 cents if refineries didn’t suffer lasting damage. But he says prices could rise by as much as 25 cents.
As of early Monday, the national average retail price for gas was about $2.37, according to AAA. That’s up slightly from about $2.33 one week ago.
The full effects of the storm remain to be seen, however. As of Monday morning, the National Hurricane Center projected that Harvey, now downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, would hover around the Texas coastline into Wednesday.
Citing a National Hurricane Center spokesperson, the New York Times reported Monday morning that driving rains would continue for another two or three days. Parts of southeast Texas are projected to receive 15 to 25 inches of rain, with some areas receiving as much as 50 inches. The spokesperson called that “unprecedented.”
Saving money on gas
As we recently detailed in “5 Simple Ways to Slash the Rising Cost of Gas,” there are plenty of ways to save money on gasoline. Many are right in front of our noses, and one is likely in the palm of your hand — your smartphone.
Free apps like AAA and GasBuddy enable you to pinpoint the lowest gas price in your area in a matter of seconds.
GasBuddy’s website even offered a gas availability tracker to drivers in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Additional ways to save money on gas fall under the more obvious category of using less gas.
Perhaps the best way to use less gasoline is to use your car less — such as by carpooling, biking or using public transportation.
If that’s impractical, work on your fuel efficiency instead so you can drive farther on the same amount of gas — or less. One of the best ways to improve your fuel economy is a simple method available to any driver: proactive driving. In other words, watch the road ahead and try to use your brake and gas pedals as little as possible.
Reactive driving, on the other hand, can lower your mileage by up to 37 percent. It includes driving habits like rapid acceleration and hard braking.
For more extreme improvements in your fuel efficiency, look into a driving style known as “hypermiling.” We break it down in “How to Increase Your Gas Mileage by 70 Percent.”
What’s your favorite way to lower your gas expenses? Share it with us by commenting below or over on our Facebook page.