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So far I've driven for four months on a quarter of a tank of gas.  I don't do a huge amount of driving in the best of times, but since COVID-19 locked us all down, my little Toyota Corollavirus has pretty much stayed parked in the driveway.  That plucky little car always got decent miles per gallon, and now it gets an outstanding 6.06 weeks per gallon (WPG).  I'm not the only one.  The dramatic reduction in demand has caused prices to drop, which in normal times might spur more demand.  Not right now, though.

According to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration Wednesday, energy consumption fell to its lowest level in over 30 years.  Gasoline demand fell to a low not seen since May of 1982.  Gasoline consumption went from 20.1 million barrels per day in April 2019 to 14.7 million barrels per day in April 2020.  AAA reported Wednesday that average gas prices were $2.18 per gallon, slightly up from last month, but down from the same time last year.  The cheapest gas is in southern states from Texas to the Carolinas.  The highest gas prices are in the western states.  here in New York the average price was $2.266 per gallon.  Gas Buddy reported regular gas at the Triphammer / Peruville Roads intersection at $2.19 Wednesday.

One has to wonder, though, if everyone is getting similar gas monthage to mine, why is gas still over two dollars per gallon?  The answer is the same as it always was. New York has relatively high gas tax.  As of January it was the state with the seventh highest gas tax, after California (the highest), Pennsylvania, Illinois, Washington, Hawaii, and Indiana.

I happen to love long automobile road trips, but there is no place to go right now, with so many other states seeing dramatic spikes in infections.  My children both live in two of the most highly infected parts of the country, so visiting them is pretty much off the table.  And if they were to visit us they would have to be quarantined for two weeks according to the New York State travel advisory that the Governor added three more states to on Tuesday.

It's a national pastime to find gas stations that will save you only a few cents, really, if you step back and look at the big picture.  I have come to realize that trolling for the cheapest gas isn't worth the time it takes.  Which is not to say that I don't still do it.

I remember the days when gasoline was well under a dollar a gallon.  In those days we thought a quarter was high, and we were always on the lookout for cheaper gas.  One day I almost got killed in that quest, as I swerved in front of a bus to screech into a gas station that had regular gas at -- get this! -- ten cents a gallon.

That was the cheapest gas I ever got.  I was in a Saint Louis suburb at the time, and had outfitted my college apartment with dishes, glasses, and silverware that all the gas stations were giving away in those days, just for buying a few gallons of gas.  This gas station wasn't giving anything away, but I didn't care.  I didn't need another Saint Louis Blues plastic drinking glass, or a mismatched plate.  Ten cents!  Wowser!  Bragging rights for life!

I also remember the lines at the gas pumps during the 1979 gasoline crisis.  If we have to have this miserable coronavirus, wouldn't ihave been great if we had had it back in '79 instead of now?  That would have solved the gas shortage problem, and we'd all be happier now to be over both problems!

That brings up another issue: can we go from dramatic lows to what used to be normal consumption in what I imagine will be a short period of time once effective vaccines are administered?  Will there be enough capacity ready to handle what may turn out to be a surge of demand?  I guess we'll see.

As long as gas is still widely available, I expect my little Toyota will be fine.  A while ago, after not driving at all for over a month I took it for a spin.  It started immediately without complaint -- just like that 200 year old VW Beetle Woody Allen found in a cave in the movie 'Sleeper' (in which Allen is cryogenically frozen and then awakened two centuries later).  Also I found I had not forgotten how to drive.  It wasn't precisely like riding a bicycle, of course, but figuratively it was.

The ways in which our governments and we have tried to deal with this pandemic have produced a myriad of unintended consequences, as well as market consequences.  I haven't read anything that leads me to believe that gasoline availability will be seriously impacted by the eventual return to normalcy.  But it is reasonable to expect that gas prices will soar.  That is a sore point for me, especially since I once paid a dime a gallon.  Glory days!

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