Change of seasons triggers lower gas prices

Emily Inverso

Summer blend vs. Winter blend — and why don’t we use summer all year long?

The Environmental Protection Agency requires gas to meet low-evaporation rules. In the summer, when it’s hot out, the sun can evaporate elements in gas called hydrocarbons, and when they mix with pollution in the air, they create ozone—one of the most prominent elements in smog.

Now, refineries remove the hydrocarbons and add elements that lower sulfur levels and vapor pressure in the gas. All of these changes help lower evaporation and its consequential ozone.

The winter blend has fewer additives, so it’s cheaper to produce.

Refineries don’t produce the cleaner summer-blend all year long because, according to a report by, “summer-blend gas doesn’t work as well in the winter. Summer blend’s low-evaporation rate makes engines less likely to stall in hot weather but can make them difficult to start in the cold.”

Record-breaking gas prices are gone — at least for now.

Local prices are down nearly 86 cents from record price peaks of about $4.10 in May. Forty cents of that decrease happened in the last month, according to a AAA fuel gauge report.

And while 40 cents can’t buy a postage stamp, it can equal a $32 dollars per month saving if consumers are filling up a 20-gallon car each week.

Marie Kunze, sophomore integrated language arts major, said she’s been watching the price decline during her commutes from Mogadore to Kent State University. She said she’s saving about $10 per month with the decrease.

“I usually ended up buying gas in Kent because I worked there and go to school there,” Kunze said. “I really noticed when prices peaked, and it’s been great to watch it come down since.”

Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said the price drops are thanks to two changes: a recent switch to winter blend gasoline and a drop in the trading price of crude oil.

“The federal government requires that refineries produce a summer blend of gasoline that has to be made available from May 1 through part of September — peak driving times — because it burns cleaner,” Laskoski said. “After that, though, they switch back to the winter blend, which has fewer additives and is much cheaper to produce.”

Recent savings are also due, in part, to drops in the trading price of crude oil — from about $89 dollars per barrel two weeks ago to $79.

Even though prices are slowly starting to increase again, Lockwood Reynolds, assistant professor in the Department of Economics, said the initial drop may have had something to do with people’s fear of another economic recession.

“During a recession with businesses impacting and people not going out and buying things or spending money or driving around, the demand for gasoline falls,” Reynolds said. “It all depends on how people are reading the tea leaves for what will happen next, but I think with this fall in prices, the lower gas prices are just going to be good for the economy.”

The downturn in gas prices is probably a welcome change for all drivers, said Allie Klejka, sophomore special education major. A CNN money report showed the average Ohioan spends about 8.57 percent of his or her annual income on gas, but Klejka said she thinks that cannot hold true for most college students.

“I spend way more than that,” Klejka said.

Klejka can only work part-time because of school and other commitments, and she said she makes about $2,000 from it. The national 8.57 percent average would mean she spends $171.40 on gas each year.

“I have to drive a lot, so that’s about how much I spend each month. In a year, I’ll spend pretty much everything I’ve made just filling up my car.”

These lower prices should be sticking around for a while, Laskoski said. He estimates the national price will average somewhere between $3.25 and $3.50 per gallon by Thanksgiving, with Ohio landing on the lower end of that spectrum.

Gasoline does follow a seasonal pattern, though, and it Laskoski said prices at the pump will undoubtedly rise again in the spring when refineries switch back to producing the summer blend of gasoline.

Just how much the prices will rise, Reynolds said, though, can never really be known. It’ll all depend on the economy and, hopefully, Americans’ uncertainty about it, he said.

“We’re never going back to the days of $1 gasoline, and if we get a lot of signs that suggest the global economy is going to grow, it’s going to drive up prices even further,” he said. “But as long as there’s a fair amount of uncertainty going on in the global economy, that’s going to likely keep our prices a lot lower.”

Contact Emily Inverso at [email protected].