Gas demand pumped up to pre-pandemic levels

Will we see $3 gas this summer? One expert says it’s not likely.

It’s the weekend, and Blanca Brown is revved up for a road trip. Remember those?

“Right now, I’m headed to the coast and Corpus,” she said.

Folks hitting the highway are paying 80 cents more per gallon than this time last year.

“I kind of predicted gas prices would go up again just because the Earth is moving again,” said Michelle Uhrich.

The world was put it in park one year ago as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, sending gas demand and prices into a free fall. But now?

“We are now at pre-Covid levels, back to early March when Americans were looking for every roll of toilet paper they could find,” said Patrick DeHaan, chief analyst at Gasbuddy.com.

Demand has been outpacing supply for a few months, causing a four-month climb at the pump.

Even as renewed Covid concerns in Europe caused fuel prices to pull back a bit this week, now something else threatens to push them higher. The massive tanker blocking the Suez Canal is cutting off the trade route for 10% of the global oil supply.

“That kinks the hose and pushes prices up,” DeHaan said.

The average price locally Friday was $2.51 a gallon. Some of the lower prices were in the Converse area where drivers were filling up for $2.37. The warehouse discount stores were selling it even cheaper.

But as people prepare for summer road trips, will they see $3 a gallon? In Texas, DeHaan said that’s not likely, although fuel is already going for $4.50 a gallon in parts of California.

No doubt, there is pent-up wanderlust. As Covid case counts go down, road travel is expected to go up. And because some international travel is still not allowed, DeHaan expects that could add to the numbers driving America.

“That could, dare I say it, create a blockbuster year for demand,” he said.

More on KSAT: