More Americans satisfied with current gas prices, UT poll says

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

An increasing number of Americans believe the current gasoline prices, which range from $1.93 to $3.29 per gallon nationally, are relatively reasonable, according to the UT Energy Poll released Wednesday. 

In September 2014, 90 percent of Americans believed gasoline prices were too high, but now that number has dropped to 66 percent.

“There’s been such a deep decline in the price,” said Sheril Kirshenbaum, director of the UT Energy Poll. “ I’m paying as much now to fill up my own car as I did in the late 1990s. I think a lot of people are noticing a big difference in how much it costs to travel.”

The sharp decline in oil prices this past year can be attributed to a lack of demand from consumers across the world, according to Carey King, assistant director of the UT Energy Institute.

“Oil production in North America has increased relatively quickly,” King said. “It has increased faster than the demand for gasoline. There’s more oil than people are prepared to consume.”

But people shouldn’t get used to these low prices, King said. 

“[These prices] will be around for six months to a year, at most,” King said.

However, high gas prices have their own set of advantages. Kirshenbaum said that when the price increases, the public usually takes a greater interest in energy conservation.

“When gas prices were very high, we saw a lot more concerns over what people were paying — maybe some more interest in the adoption of renewable technologies or driving hybrid cars,” Kirshenbaum said.

When gas prices decline, number of large vehicles purchased goes up, said Michelle Foss, chief energy economist for the Jackson School of Geosciences.

“When gasoline prices are lower, people tend to use more,” Foss said. “In our country, people have started buying SUVs and trucks again. If the cars people buy are more fuel efficient, which they are, then less gasoline will get used than before.”

The findings in the poll don’t have much significance, according to Foss, because any small price fluctuation in the oil industry has a considerable effect on the U.S.

“We have not had big changes,” Foss said. “Oil prices stabilized a bit. In the U.S., any change in oil price, high or low, gets translated directly to the pump. This is especially true in Texas.”