Higher Gas Prices Have Reno Students Worried About International News
Olivia Sullivan and Willie Brazil find UNR students affected by rising gas prices in Reno, feeling connected, much like during the pandemic, to the rest of the world, in a bad way.
Alexandria Burgess, or Alex, as her friends all know her, often finds herself playing chauffeur to her group of friends. Whether it be driving to Sparks to go to the outlet mall or to the Walgreens on N. Virginia to get cold drinks–she is known among them as “the one who drives.” She takes them everywhere, and without a single complaint. However, recently Alex has found that her late night drives with friends have begun feeling more expensive than they used to.
She has an above minimum wage paying job on campus that allows her to pay for her own groceries and gas. She is able to save money by living in a dorm, which has allowed her to avoid the fluctuating rent prices in Reno. However, the money she makes at her job, and what she saves from living in a dorm do not keep her from feeling the full effects of the rising gas prices throughout Reno.
U.S. residents have anxiously watched as gas prices across the country have fluctuated over the last few months. This is not largely out of the ordinary, however the circumstances in this instance are certainly cause for discussion and deeper concern.
Gas prices are largely determined by supply and demand. Russia is one of the largest contributors when it comes to oil production in the entire world, producing about 8% of U.S. imports of crude oil and refined products last year. After the U.S. government banned the import of Russian energy last month, this meant that with the lower supply or its future forecast not necessarily meeting the demand, prices have seen a steep influx.
The entire country has undoubtedly experienced rises in prices at the gas pump and Reno, Nevada has proven to be no different.
According to AAA, the roadside assistance giant, the national average in late April was up to $4.134 per gallon. For a relatively small car with a twelve gallon tank, that comes out to about $50 dollars just to fill up.
In Washoe County, the average cost per gallon is $5.127, which is almost one full dollar more than the national average. Reno/Washoe County gas prices have typically been higher than the national average as well as the average price of gas in the state of Nevada (due to higher gas taxes and being impacted by its location relative to California), but this is now unchartered territory for many locals, including students.
Burgess, a third year student studying journalism here at UNR, says that she has definitely felt the shift of gas prices in recent weeks.
“I drive a Ford Escape 2016, and it used to be like $30 dollars to fill my tank and now it’s about $65,” she said. “I mean, I have a 14-gallon tank, which is typically on the lower side, so that’s a lot of money to be spending now.”
Burgess frequents different local gas stations such as Jacksons, a gas station positioned on a corner right across from the UNR campus. She usually credits it with being convenient and cheap, though lately she believes the opposite can be said.
“I’ve definitely had to go without driving a couple of times because of prices,” she said. “But I know that what’s been really popular lately is only filling half the tank, like because it’s too expensive and not everyone has over 60 dollars to drop every two weeks. Or you fill it up halfway but then don’t drive until you get paid. It’s definitely a process to get a full tank of gas these days.”
Burgess said she’s following what’s going on with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and believes it has an effect.
“Like I know everyone is upset with Russia because they invaded Ukraine and we get most of our oil from them (Russia), and President Biden has imposed blocks on Russian items being brought into the U.S. because we are cutting them off, like we aren’t supporting them,” she said.
“Part of me doesn’t mind paying the high prices if we’re not supporting Russia, “ Burgess went on, “because like eventually the prices will go down, we just gotta power through it. I think people will eventually figure it out. And in the meantime I think a lot of people will probably turn to public transit or electric cars, which are now becoming more expensive, unfortunately.”
Tyler Ellis is a UNR Business student who has felt the effects of the gas prices steadily rising in the Reno area and is interested in its root cause as well.
“I drive a 2018 Subaru Impreza sport. I try to drive as little as possible unless I’m driving to the mountain to snowboard. Otherwise, I’m riding my bike or walking where I need to go,” he said.
“Gas now costs me $80 every two weeks, so you could say $40 a week. I have noticed the gas prices lately because my car is practically double what it used to cost to fill up. For me, it used to be about $35 now I’m reaching around $75.”
He said his knowledge of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine was minimal, but that he’s trying to follow world events closer now.
“It has gotten me to follow more political events recently, but I know little besides that,” he said. “I believe with any political war or any sort of war, it has a terrible impact on gas prices because our troops have to be ready and are in need of gas too. We have naval ships that need to be filled, transport vehicles that need to have gas in them, and overall most machine-operated vehicles needs gas. I believe we need to find an alternate source. As far as long-term effects, I believe more people will be making the switch to an electric car as they are coming to the market more often. And if we don’t figure out something soon, we’re gonna be in a bad area because [for] oil … it does take a long time to find and the deeper we have to dig them, the more the environment will suffer.”
The popularity of electric vehicles, or EVs, has grown exponentially in recent years as well. Most hear the term and immediately associate it with Tesla, a brand currently ranked at 23rd after dropping seven spots in Consumer Reports, according to an article written on Barrons in February of this year. Despite its drop in rating, Tesla has never appeared to be more popular, especially around college-aged students.
We decided to reach out to some of those students to get a better understanding of their choice to purchase an EV, as well as get their take on if it was worth it or not. We found the most forthcoming responses on the UNR subreddit (above).
The Reddit user, Poles_Pole_Vaults wrote: “Having a Tesla has definitely helped me to save money over the past few months, probably up to $75 per month. But there’s really never any return on investment from owning the car. It’s a luxury EV for sure.”
“It’s becoming obvious that EVs are the next generation, however there’s a lot of infrastructure still yet to be implemented such as very rapid charging and sustainable power sources,” the user went on. “Most charging is being fueled by the grid which comes from natural gas, and other fossil fuels primarily. Which is better than gasoline but not good enough. In general, it’s a really good option to start looking into EVs but probably most feasible to begin purchasing an EV in the next 2–5 years when there are more affordable EV options available. As mentioned — the Tesla is definitely a luxury car.”
Another user, ryanlong897 added: “I graduated from UNR in 2020 and live in San Francisco now where gas prices are generally higher. Having a Tesla has been amazing in that regard. It costs between $15 and $30 to add about 250 miles to my car (depending on a couple different factors). This price has not changed for the year that I’ve lived here, so it’s very easy to budget consistently. The gas price surge had no effect on me personally. I do think that the car was a good purchase not just because of the current cost of gas. Electric cars have many benefits that make them cheaper to own and maintain in the long run compared to I.C.E. (IInternal Combustion Engine) cars.
He also explained the downsides of EVs, sharing this:
“Charging an all electric car is somewhat inconvenient when your apartment doesn’t have the infrastructure built in to let you charge there, like mine, so I’m forced to charge at superchargers, which is more expensive, and means I need to take an hour out of my week to go charge. I’ve saved ~$80 this month compared to gas, but the prices it’s using to calculate that are an average from California.”
Gas prices are going up everywhere, but hyperfocusing on how this fluctuation affects different students at UNR has really put a lot into perspective regarding their various situations. The experience of each student right now, however, does seem to be quite universal in that the gas prices are becoming more and more difficult to pay for those who drive cars that require gas.
Tesla owners in and around Reno have shown that they are better off in this regard, as they don’t have to worry nearly as much about the fluctuation of gas prices, however, they still do have their own sets of issues. The largest issue they’re coming across is that electric vehicles themselves have become more expensive than ever — especially Teslas.
The perspectives of both current and former students, and Renoites alike pertaining to the Russia/Ukraine conflict’s effects on our gas pumps, provide us with plenty of insight into how the conflicts that take place around us, even though they may seem far away initially, can play huge factors into our day to day lives.
Burgess can attest to this. With her above minimum wage job, she still does not make enough to afford the rising prices of gas in Reno or to buy an EV. So, as prices continue to fluctuate as often as they are, Alex and her friends might just have to find a new way around town. Reno just added Bird scooters so that might be a cheaper option.