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Holiday gas prices dropping locally as Omicron variant spreads

An average gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in San Luis Obispo County is $4.81.
Rachel Showalter
An average gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in San Luis Obispo County is $4.81.

As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads across the United States, and demand for gas drops, prices at the pump are falling.

In California, regular unleaded gas prices are down about one cent from last week and almost nine cents from last month.

On December 22, the average gallon of gas in San Luis Obispo County was $4.81.

Patrick De Haan is the head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. He said this trend is happening across the country, with national prices down almost three cents from last week and almost 12 cents from last month.

“This is not just unique to one region," De Haan said. "A lot of it has to do with concerns over the Omicron variant that creeped in shortly after its discovery after Thanksgiving.”

De Haan said the responses from governments across the globe to issue new lockdowns and travel restrictions are likely causing a drop in oil demand.

He said the drop prices makes sense, but the pace of decline is slower than what he would have expected.

De Haan said it’s hard to know how long the trend will last, although he said prices will likely continue to drop over the holidays and into the New Year.

“If it’s bad news and the prognosis doesn’t look great, with Omicron continuing to cause COVID cases to rise, we could see oil prices continue to decline, and thus, gas prices,” De Haan said.

Although we are seeing prices drop a bit right now, the amount drivers are paying at the pump is still up almost a dollar and a half from this time last year.

De Haan said that’s a result of the economy opening back up. He said that kind of boost is pretty unusual.

“I don’t think under any scenario, would I see gas prices going up again next year like they have between this year and last year,” De Haan said.

Anyone driving to areas near Los Angeles or San Francisco for the holidays should prepare for delays.

AAA predicts the worst time to travel on December 23 is between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m., while the best travel time is after 7 p.m.

If you’re traveling on Christmas Eve, AAA predicts it is best to be on the road before 1 p.m. AAA predicts the worst time to drive on New Years Eve is between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department is encouraging people to get tested for COVID-19 before and after traveling. Click here for more information about where you can get tested.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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