June 27, 2022


Beyond Automotive

Drivers slash spending, weigh electric cars as gas prices soar

3 min read

SCHENECTADY — The price of gas reached a record $5 a gallon over the weekend  and the escalation wasn’t lost on James Scott, a landscaper who relies on gas to fuel nearly all of his equipment.

“I’m going in a circle,” said Scott. “I’m making very little profit.”

But Scott, 60, of Schenectady, also dabbles in selling electric scooters and has started to use his own products more.

The nationwide average for a gallon of gasoline reached just above $5 over the weekend, according to the Associated Press, citing the auto club AAA, with the average price increasing 18 cents in the previous week, which is $1.92 higher than this time last year.

Scott believes the escalating prices will hasten society’s transition to electric vehicles.

“It’s time for that,” Scott said as he topped off his Ford Explorer on Monday at the Stewart’s Shop on Brandywine Avenue. “I really believe the world is changing this way.”

At the next pump over, James Reedy filled up his Chevy Spark, a compact car he bought recently, in part, for better fuel efficiency.

The county’s gas tax cap helps some, said Reedy, a 69-year-old retired nurse, as does the state’s decision to suspend part of its gas tax. But the spike still hurts.

“I’m not traveling as often as I used to,” Reedy said.

Interviews with roughly two-dozen local drivers on Monday revealed most were changing their habits, whether considering electric vehicles, slashing vacations, reducing daily trips or spiking discretionary spending. 

Bob Masi, 59, a carrier for a local newspaper, said his daily fuel costs have doubled and he’s considering picking up a second job. 

“It’s like there’s no control,” Masi said. “You want to stop the bleeding.”

Ruth Lex, 79, of Schenectady, said she packs all of her errands into a once-a-week trip. Sid Capen, 69, is trying to cobble together more part-time jobs to make ends meet. 

“I feel like it’s consuming everything,” Capen said before filling up at the Alltown Fresh on Erie Boulevard in Schenectady. “I’m trying to scrape together every job I can.”

Several factors can be attributed to the steady increase in gas prices.  

Global oil prices have been rising since December, according to the Associated Press, while the price of international crude has roughly doubled in that time.

Russia is a leading oil producer and the country’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions by the U.S. and its allies have also contributed to soaring coasts, according to the outlet.

Furthermore, the U.S.’s capacity to turn oil into gasoline is down since late 2019, while “tighter oil and gasoline supplies are hitting as energy consumption rises because of the economic recovery,” the Associated Press reported.

Demand for gasoline is also up because more Americans hit the road after Memorial Day.

Brief visits to several dozen gas stations in Schenectady and Rotterdam on Monday revealed prices per gallon deviated wildly, from $4.77 at the Runway Express on Altamont Avenue to $4.99 at the Speedway on Brandywine Avenue. Yet drivers didn’t seem to heed the nearly 20 cent price difference, with both businesses experiencing mid-morning drivers filling up at a steady clip with seemingly no difference in traffic. 

Jose Sanchez, 60, groaned as he left Runway Express.

“I can’t go anywhere because the gas prices are too much,” Sanchez said.

(The Times Union interviewed two men named Jose Sanchez on Monday.) 

Another Jose Sanchez, 29, shrugged as he filled up at Alltown Fresh.

“Work more,” Sanchez, a technician at a beverage company, said when asked how he planned to absorb the growing fuel costs.

He acknowledged he’s thought about transitioning to electric vehicles, but said he was wary of a friend with a Tesla who had drive a significant distance to get the vehicle serviced. 

Until service stations catering to electric vehicles are more prevalent, Sanchez said he will hold off .

Michael Holmes, 66, expressed similar sentiments, citing the lack of widespread charging infrastructure, including in the Stockade neighborhood where he lives. 

“I leave my car at home and ride my bike more,” Holmes said.

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