Higher gas prices take a toll on commuter students

Megan Diskin

Gas prices have been rising in the last few weeks due to factors including the cost of crude oil and refinery shutdowns.

According to a news release from the Automobile Club of Southern California, gas prices have jumped by 57 cents in the last month, one of the biggest jumps in a month. The average price of regular gasoline in the Los Angeles/Long Beach area is $4.316 per gallon, jumping 11.3 cents in a week.

Laura Dunlap, 26, an English graduate student, lives in Ventura County and drives 50 minutes each way in a car she’s had for 10 years.

“It’s a six-cylinder gas guzzler,” Dunlap said. She tries to fill her tank near campus because it is 10 cents less a gallon than in Ventura County.

Several oil refineries are shutting down temporarily to prepare for the switch to summer gasoline, and cost of oil is going up. According to the Energy Information Administration, the cost of a barrel of crude oil was $93.09 on Jan. 4. That price has gone up to $97.51 as of Feb. 12.

“Oil prices move gas prices, and whenever there’s uncertainty in the Middle East prices go up,” said Shirley Svorny, economics professor at CSUN. Svorny went on to say that the United States actually has more oil in shale, rocks containing natural oil, than in Saudi Arabia.

“It’s oil we didn’t know we have. Now’s it’s a matter of how to extract and refine it,” Svorny said.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique used to extract petroleum and natural gas from shale rocks. Fracking is widely protested by some in the United States because the process can contaminate ground water supplies and adds to the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide levels.

Mayra Salazar, 22, junior business management major, has a one-hour commute to school and only comes twice a week.

“I commute with my dad so that helps me save money,” Salazar said. “I’m also taking online classes, so that helps a lot.”

Janet Tsay, 23, senior liberal studies major, commutes to campus from Rosemead, where her boyfriend lives, or her home in Arcadia.

“I drive an SUV and I just filled it up the other day,” Tsay said. “It was 21 point something gallons, but it was $95.”

Two years ago, Tsay got into a car accident and switched to a Mercedes SUV because she thought it would protect her, but the price of gas has made her change her mind.

“It’s pretty much, give or take, $100 a week,” she said. “I don’t want to drive anymore.”