Gas prices seeing decline – due to Omicron variant?


The price of crude oil fell more than $10 last Friday following the news of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, now making the price of crude $68 per barrel. Meanwhile, gas prices in the Carolinas subsequently followed suit, with both states seeing declines on the week.

“It’s too soon to determine if this new variant will continue to push crude lower,” said Tiffany Wright, spokesperson, AAA – The Auto Club Group in the Carolinas. “For now, upward pricing pressure due to tight supply and high demand will likely be what keeps prices stabilized.”

North Carolina’s current gas price average is $3.19, having a 1-cent decline on the week. This average is 6 cents less than a month ago and $1.21 more than last year. South Carolina’s current gas price average is $3.09, having a 2-cent decline on the week. This average is 9 cents less than a month ago and $1.22 more than last year. South Carolina is also a part of the nation’s top 10 least expensive markets.

Today’s national average of $3.39 is a penny less than a month ago and $1.27 more than a year ago.

Crude prices fell amid concerns about the new COVID-19 Omicron variant and the travel restrictions announced by the Biden administration. With little known about the new variant, it is unclear what long-term impact it may have on crude prices. Before reports of the new variant, EIA’s weekly report revealed that total domestic crude supply increased by 1 million bbl to 434 million bbl. However, prices rose last week despite President Biden’s announcement that the federal government will make available up to 32 million bbl of oil held in the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) and accelerate the timeline for the sale of an additional 18 million bbl of SPR oil, as mandated by Congress. The effort is expected to be coordinated with the release of oil from other major crude consuming countries, including China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the U.K, to help reduce the price of crude. How much of a price impact, and how long the price relief at the pump will last, depends on the total amount of oil that moves into the market after the coordinated releases around the globe. For this week, crude prices could decline further if the global market begins to see an increase in supply from the joint releases or EIA’s next report shows another increase in total domestic supply. Additionally, market watchers will keep their eye on the impact of the Omicron variant on the oil market.

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