CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – The national average gas price is expected to hit $5 per gallon within a week. In Illinois, it’s already here. Economists are warning drivers to brace for long-term changes.
“People ought to get ready and expect more of this kind of thing. I don’t think gas prices are going down much anymore,” economist and U of I Finance Professor Don Fullerton said.
Nine other states have hit $5. Across the country, prices aren’t going to fall anytime soon. It’s leading some drivers to avoid getting behind the wheel altogether. Riding public transportation is just one of several lifestyle changes Fullerton recommends to save money on your commute.
“Back then, we used to drive anywhere with no problem. But now, it’s kind-of hurting us,” bus passenger Carita Brown said.
She said she hardly drives anywhere because her family simply can’t afford to gas up anymore.
“Let’s say if we want to go out of Champaign, we can’t. There’s not even enough gas to get us there,” she said.
They’ve had to cancel their summer vacation plans. It’s a common problem, but not surprising. Fullerton said prices will continue to change, and people will need to adapt.
“Eventually, in enough decades, there won’t be gasoline cars anymore, because that’ll be more expensive than electric,” Fullerton said.
Besides taking public transportation, his top suggestion is switching to a more fuel efficient, hybrid or electric vehicle.
“You can’t limit yourself just to Champaign County in the long run. But an electric vehicle might help because wind power is getting cheaper, solar power is getting cheaper, the battery technology is getting better, and therefore cheaper,” he said.
He predicts eventually, gasoline-powered cars will be a thing of the past. And if you’re already considering buying a new car, you might want to make the switch.
“Since that’s the trend, you might want to overshoot a bit and go extreme because it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said.
The combination of inflation, a recession and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine are driving up prices, and spikes like this aren’t unique.
“We had embargoes from Middle East oil in years past; we had huge jumps in in those years,” he said.
And even though prices came back down after that…
“There’s too many events like this around the world, and I think people need now to start to adjust,” he said.
And drivers are doing just that.
“We’re going to put gas in the car and only use it when we need it, and then catch buses and [the] train. That’s our best option. Other than that, we might as well be walking,” Brown said.
Right now, an annual pass to ride Champaign Mass Transit District buses is $60. That’s less than a tank of gas. While Fullerton said it’s hard to predict exactly when going electric will be cheaper than driving fuel-powered cars, it’s the future of transportation.