Gas shortage affects commuters

As the demand for gasoline climbs globally, the gas pumps are inflicting more damage than ever to the wallets of Tech students who commute to campus.

Gas prices are rising, and gas stations are experiencing major shortages, forcing commuting students to search around for gas stations that have fuel for their pumps.

Gas prices at some of the pumps in the United States began to surpass the $4 per gallon mark in May 2008. According to the Financial Post, economists predict that gas prices will double in North America by 2012. This means that gas prices may be over $7 per gallon in four years.

As more and more people in large emerging countries such as China and India begin using cars, the global demand for oil will continue to rise.

According to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, 2020 will see global oil usage rise 60 percent, and by 2025, the number of cars in the world will have grown to about 1.25 billion from the current 700 million.

Not surprisingly, there are numerous complaints regarding the gas shortage and gas prices from Tech students who have to drive to campus daily.

Michael Nahm, fourth-year EE major, is one Tech student who lives off-campus and commutes regularly.

“My gas light went on, and it’s really frustrating because I cannot find any gas station that actually has gas. I just hope I can find one before I stop in the middle of the road,” Nahm said.

Continuing gas shortages and rising gas prices are forcing some Tech students to alter their driving habits.

“I live across the street from campus, so I walk to work anyway. Since I drive less than the average commuter, gas prices affect me less acutely, but the shortage certainly has me thinking about driving more efficiently,” said Joshua Symonds, PHYS graduate student.

“I try not to idle and make lighter use of the brake and gas pedals. I’ve also tried to accomplish more errands in the same trip,” Symonds said.

Some students maintain that their driving habits have not been significantly affected by the gas issue.

“My driving habits have been only slightly affected. Until we reach the point that there is absolutely zero gas in Atlanta, I will keep going out to eat and driving around campus,” said Garrett Gresham, third-year ME major.

The main reason behind the shortages was due to large power outages at the Gulf Coast refineries, reported BusinessWeek.

Crude oil refineries on the Gulf Coast, which provide the majority of the oil supply to the southeast region, underwent major disruptions in production due to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike last month. The two hurricanes forced oil companies to close down the pipelines.

The pipelines were ready to transport oil to the southeast, but the lack of electricity prevented the oil companies from transporting the oil from both existing reserves at the refineries and storage locations in the southeast.

While many of the refineries are up and running again now after the storms have passed, not all of them are getting enough oil to return to full capacity.

According to Sterling Skinner Jr., director of Instructional Laboratories at the School of Mechanical Engineering, the rising gas prices can be explained by inflation.

Considering gas prices as adjusted for inflation, the actual cost of gas is not significantly different from that of 70 years ago said Skinner.

“The real problem is that our dollar just isn’t worth much on the world market anymore, so everything that is traded globally is more expensive for us. That goes for steel, copper, wheat, rice, and bananas, as well as crude oil,” Skinner said.

He said the US dollar’s value has depreciated due to the prevalent debt of the American economy, which inevitably drove up the gas prices.

“I think that the gas prices are still very cheap. Just think about the energy needed to move 3500lbs chunk of steel a distance of 20 miles. Wouldn’t you expect to pay more than $4.50 for such a chore? Our cars do that quietly and effortlessly with air conditioning and the radio playing and with leather seats… and we still complain,” Skinner said.