During the first several months of the pandemic, there was one silver lining amidst all the chaos and changes to life as we knew it before. Gas prices fell to some of the cheapest rates in Michigan, as well as across the United States than had been seen in several years. It was due to an absolute nose-dive in demand when strict pandemic travel restrictions were put into place.

Now, in February of 2022, we are seeing some of the highest prices in several years and the whiplash, along with the rise of prices in so many areas of the economy, is really putting a pinch on everyone who drives. It's been like this for several months now and seems to keep getting worse every couple weeks when you have to fill up.

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According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of gas statewide is $3.37 cents, eight cents below the national average of $3.45. In West Michigan, average prices are generally on par with the state average at around $3.34 to $3.41 in areas like Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids.

So how long is it going to stay like this? The short answer is, obviously, no one knows.

Once pandemic restrictions were lifted and people got back out on the roads, we started hearing that demand was driving prices up at the pump. But is that the reason anymore? Prices certainly were not this high before the pandemic shutdowns happened in the Spring of 2020.

And as is usually the case, many are blaming the President. Joe Biden has various stances on energy production, in particular related to the use of oil and clean energy. But it is common, easy, and honestly understandable to point the blame at the President when gas prices are ridiculously high. The same thing happened under the watch of President George W. Bush during part of the 2000s when gas prices were also ridiculously high and he was accused of it being related to his ties to the oil industry. But it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Most people know but may not want to believe, that the President does not directly have anything to do with gas prices. It has to do with the market and demand more than anything else. Yes, production is in there too, and don't get me wrong, there are understandable reasons to point at the top and be frustrated with what has happened with this, and in general in our economy, since Biden took office. And it’s a lot to unpack given the crazy world we’re all living in now, including the two years before Biden took office.

And if it was only gas prices that were insanely expensive under President Biden's watch, perhaps he wouldn't be getting quite as much heat. But it is what it is and it does seem like he is for the most part avoiding any engagement on the issue, which is not a good look. Again, not directly to blame, but certainly not making it look like he has any desire to face it.

In AAA's weekly report about gas prices, they cite new data from the Energy Information Administration saying an increase in total stocks and a decrease in demand typically put downward pressure on pump prices. But in this case, rising crude prices continue to push prices higher instead. And other tensions in the world are not helping.

Russia is a member of OPEC+, and any sanctions based on their actions toward Ukraine may cause it to withhold crude oil from the global market. Moreover, OPEC+ announced last week it will stick to its plan to increase crude production next month despite calls for it to increase output, even more, to help meet demand. So that is what experts in the industry believe is the continuing problem at the pump. - AAA

So according to this information, there really is no end in sight and it actually could get much worse before it gets better.

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