But fast-forward to April 2021 and Gainesville’s gas prices have increased, with regular rates in the neighborhood of $2.69 per gallon, which is in line with the state’s per-gallon average of $2.71.

How much motorists could be paying at the pump in the coming months, gas market experts say, depends on a number of factors. The normal summer price increase will also be affected by the success of COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

“It’s directly tied to each other,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at Gas Buddy. “If there is a downward trend in COVID-19 cases, people are getting vaccines, all 50 states are successful in curbing COVID-19, gas prices will rise.”

Waiters said gas prices traditionally rise going into summer anyway, when there is a switch from low to high Reid vapor pressure fuel used in hotter months and as driving increases.

“High-drive seasons such as Memorial Day, July 4 and Thanksgiving are also times when prices can significantly fluctuate,” she said. “Additionally, regional gas prices fluctuate depending on local taxes, local supply, and demand.”

That demand could be higher as more states open up, restrictions are lifted, and many people who’ve been isolated at home for a year indulge their urge to go somewhere.

“The belief is that a blend of Americans will feel better about getting out and driving more as vaccinations rise and … COVID cases trend downward,” De Haan said. “Also consider how much overseas travel could be limited for Americans. There could be more (road) travel happening.”

De Haan told The Times that while it’s “impossible to predict” what prices could look like this summer, gas prices could also surge due to optimism from oil producers that there will be higher demand. 

More demand could cause a spike in the price of crude oil, which accounts for half the price of gas. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other top oil producers have announced they will increase production by about 350,000 barrels a day starting next month.

While there have been reports that motorists in some states could be paying as much as $4 per gallon this summer, AAA officials said that’s not expected in Georgia. With a glut of supply, prices could even go down temporarily.

“There appears to be no indication that Georgians will experience $4 per gallon gas prices at the pump this summer,” Waiters said. “Actually, growing stock levels and cheaper crude oil prices are putting downward pressure on pump prices for the majority of motorists.” 

Garrett Townsend, Georgia public affairs director for AAA, concurred.

“In the weeks ahead Georgians may see slight fluctuation at the pumps,” Townsend said. “However, large jumps are not likely to occur.”

Ahmad Brown, a long-hauler for Pepsi who does deliveries throughout North Georgia and metro Atlanta, said he noticed prices lower than $2 per gallon when the pandemic was in full force in March 2020. 

When asked about a possible rise in gas prices in the months to come, he was skeptical.

“This pandemic isn’t over, and while there are more people on the roads, I also don’t see quite as many people at the local pumps that I’m at,” he said. “For me, my expenses are covered by (Pepsi), but I know that a difference of a dollar at the pumps can hurt folks.”

De Haan added that while gas prices have rebounded in recent months, the oil industry is still reeling from the pandemic that led to a massive elimination of jobs in that sector.

“The pandemic has a major impact on the gas market, and the next few months will be critical for the industry,” he said.

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