Gas prices take their toll on wallets


Jeff Achler, senior physical education major, pumps gas at the BP on Lincoln Highway Tuesday afternoon.

By Linze Griebenow

Gas prices are increasingly becoming the biggest threat to the economy, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

With the U.S. unleaded gas average at $3.58 a gallon, prices on petroleum have risen 25 cents since the new year. According to The Associated Press, experts in the field said prices could reach as high as $4.45 by Memorial Day. Increases at the pump can be attributed to tensions in Iran and higher demand from China, India and the U.S. Once pumps reach $4 a gallon, economists say the economy will begin to feel the pressure. In addition, The Associated Press said analysts estimate that “every one-cent increase is roughly a $1.4 billion drain on the economy.” Zandi said.

“Gas is like the stock market: You think you can control it but you really can’t, and I’m just sitting it out pretty much,” said freshman sociology major Maddie Schall. “That’s all I can do.”

Zandi also said gasoline prices are likely to keep rising as the summer driving season approaches.

Students said the current prices already inhibit their ability to drive freely and commute home, and some fear that may become even more restricted if prices continue to rise.

“I definitely don’t go home as often but I can’t really let it affect me that much because I want to go,” said junior Spanish major Jennilyn Magallon. “So during the summer I have two jobs so I can make it worth it to come home and come back. It’s something that I worry about a lot. It’s not worth going home for just one day because of the gas prices.”

Magallon said she walks to school everyday despite having a car and pays for her own gas without aid from her parents.

“They would pay for me to come home, but I wouldn’t do that to them,” Magallon said. “We’re all hurting because of the gas prices.”

Schall, a commuter from Sycamore, said her wallet is feeling the pressure too.

“I have family in Alsip, Ill., and that can take two hours one way and that takes half a tank of gas or more,” Schall said. “So I look back at it now and I think that I didn’t really penny-pinch as much as I should but gas wasn’t that bad and I haven’t really ever experienced these super-high gas prices; I’m not used to it.”

Schall said that feeling helpless is the most frustrating aspect of the fluxing market.

“I’m kind of forced to pay because there’s no bus that takes me to school,” Schall said. “Even with TransVac and all of that, I’d still have to walk all the way downtown, so I really don’t have a choice and I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of other commuters. And not even just students, but businesses and jobs too, because we don’t really have that choice: We have to pay the money and I think gas companies know that, unfortunately. So it’s like, I want to stop because the gas is going to be so much, but then again, I have no choice but to keep using it.”

According to an Associated Press article, economists said that citizens, let alone the president, have little to no control over petroleum influxes. However, that has not stopped the presidential candidates from providing solutions and promises to the American citizens.

In a Feb. 23 speech, President Barack Obama said anyone who suggests controlling gas prices is within the power of the president is being dishonest.

GOP candidate Newt Gingrich said in a Feb. 22 speech that he has created a plan that will preserve American pride and tax dollars.

“I’ve developed a program for American energy so no future president will ever bow to a Saudi king again; so every American can look forward to $2.50-a-gallon gasoline,” Gingrich said. Gingrich’s proposed strategy is named, “Drill Here, Drill Now.”

In a similar manner, Obama has brought forth an energy solution named “All-of-the-Above,” which emphasizes the use of any and all forms of energy, from oil to wind to solar power. Obama said creating new forms of energy was “the only real solution” to America’s gas problem.

Gingrich’s promise of seeing gas at $2.50 a gallon, however, doesn’t seem very realistic, as local prices have yo-yo’d over the past 6 months, Schall said

“I’ve been in Sycamore since August and gas got down to $3.20 and I thought, ‘Oh wow, this is great,’” Schall said. “But lately, because of all the foreign crises, it’s up to $3.60. I was like, ‘Okay, it’s getting a little high, but I can wait it out, it’s okay.’ At $3.70, oh my God, I started to freak out. Now it’s up to $3.80.”

Schall said in the wake of pricing peaks, she wishes that electric cars were more affordable.

“But those are so expensive, and I plan on using my car until it falls apart, so I’m kind of stuck,” Schall said.

Magallon, who works at DeKalb Public Library, said even if prices don’t decrease, she believes NIU and the DeKalb area are well-equipped to handle the needs of non-drivers.

“I think I could get around fine because of the bus system,” Magallon said. “And the library isn’t too far from where I live, so I could ride a bike or something.”

Magallon also said she routinely checks the maintenance of her vehicle to ensure efficient gas mileage.

“I make sure that my tire pressure is good and that I’m changing my oil regularly so that it burns fuel efficiently,” Magallon said.

Until the economy stabilizes, Schall said she will continue to pay the fees, but has also learned a valuable lesson in finances.

“I just hope it goes down because this is ridiculous,” Schall said. “It’s made me realize how much gas I use. I figured it out and I’m spending $5 a day when gas prices are average and not spiking like they are right now and now I’m spending even more money. And I understand that gas is getting more expensive as time goes on, but I’m sure next year when it’s already $4.70 we’re going to be super complaining then, but there’s just nothing we can do about it and all gas companies know that.”

 Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed to this article.