NAMPA — Lines of vehicles stretched back from gas pumps at Costco in Nampa on July 30 as drivers queued up for marginally less expensive gas — $3.799 for regular unleaded. Most stations in town were selling regular unleaded for $3.89 a gallon, according to gasbuddy.com.
The statewide average price, $3.784, was well above the national average of $3.168, according to AAA. The average in Ada and Canyon counties was above $3.90. From July 22 to July 29, Idaho saw the second-highest increase in price as the cost jumped 7 cents in the state.
“(The gas prices are) crazy,” said Melecio Juarez, who drove his truck to Costco for the cheaper gas. “I always check in on the gas stations to see where (there) is a cheaper gallon and where to fill up next time.”
As pandemic restrictions have ended and people resume their everyday lives and traveling, demand for gas has soared. Americans have been largely stuck in the country, unable to travel abroad even as COVID-19 vaccinations have increased. As a result, domestic travel spiked, particularly road trips.
But for Heather Manby, the gas prices mean a potential trip to Florida probably won’t happen.
“We definitely keep it closer to home,” Manby said. “It kind of makes us homebodies and it makes it difficult in the summer with the kiddos on school break, we don’t get to travel around as much.”
She filled up her Chevy Equinox at a Maverik, where gas was $3.89.
“(The gas prices are) ridiculous,” Manby said. “It’s hard for a family to keep up with it, and the grocery prices … my car used to take $35 and now we’re probably going to be looking around $60.”
The toll on wallets has increased from just a month ago, when the average Idaho price was $3.42. Last summer, gas prices were only $2.409 — but those prices were artificially low as many Americans were under quarantine as some states enacted travel restrictions.
The highest ever price in Idaho was in July 2008 when costs climbed to $4.163. But at that time, crude oil prices were $147 a barrel. At the moment, prices are a little over $70 a barrel. In 2020, the price per barrel dropped as low as $32.25 — the country’s lowest nominal price since 2003, according to inflationdata.com.
But prices above $75 are the highest in almost three years, according to CNN.
OPEC, known as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, controls a large portion of the global oil supply. OPEC Plus includes 10 additional non-OPEC oil producers.
“OPEC has been very reluctant to increase its crude oil production, and that has kept supply down and prices up,” AAA Idaho Public Affairs Director Matthew Conde said. “So those two things working in tandem have been a real disaster for people at the pump.”
Two weeks ago, OPEC Plus reached a deal to pump more oil, according to the New York Times. The group will increase output every month by 400,000 barrels a day, starting next month.
But Conde said the reality is experts were expecting more production from the OPEC members.
“Idaho has been in the top 10 for price increases week-over-week over the last several (weeks),” he said. “Right now, the things that are putting all the pressure out there are the demand based on strong travel numbers and the nations that are holding back crude oil production.”
A few weeks ago, the country hit a 10 million barrel per day mark for gasoline demand, Conde added, which is the highest on record.
“In a typical year, you get to Labor Day, people are going back to school, people are staying closer to home and demand tends to fall off and gas prices tend to fall off with that,” he said. “It’s just too hard to say that this year is going to somehow fit the mold because last year didn’t.”
Iris Rodriguez stopped at a Maverik in Caldwell mid-afternoon in her husband’s Chevy Silverado pickup to fill up. The gas prices suck, she said.
“Way too high. We’re all underpaid,” Rodriguez said. “Even getting to work is hard.”
It’s a question of affording to live, she said. Rodriguez lives 42 miles away from her job, she said.
“I’m losing money. But they’re making money,” she said, pointing at the pump.