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Here's why gas prices keep climbing in Nevada and what you can do

Gas prices
Joe Raedle, Getty Images
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Gabriela Chirinos places the handle back on the pump after filling her vehicle with gas at a Miami Shell station on Nov. 22, 2021.

Las Vegas relies heavily on tourism to keep its economy afloat.
Now that Nevada boasts the second highest gas prices in the country, will we see fewer visitors? How did prices rise so fast?

“We already had supply constraints because of COVID,” said John Restrepo, a Las Vegas-based economist with RCG economics. “We also had a huge increase in demand from all the stimulus.”

A third component, he said, is the West Coast reducing its refinery capacities over a number of years. They “all come to play in this perfect storm situation we’re in right now.”

He said he did expect prices to get higher before coming back down, but many things need to happen: a resolution in Ukraine, supply chain fixes in America, “lowering that political, global uncertainty will help. It’s going to take time.”

Tourists will still come to Nevada, he predicted, but inflation will affect how much they spend.

Nevada needs to diversify its economy. Restrepo said. “I thought we were going to understand the vulnerability issue after the Great Recession. We did for a while and everything, you know, good times came back, and we forgot that we are the most vulnerable.”

“Most of [the drive behind increasing prices] is access to oil,” says John Treanor with AAA. “We have to get fuel into Nevada, and there are a few refineries on the West Coast and the East Coast, and transporting that fuel cost a lot of money.”

He said the reality is gas stations can make their own prices and a lot of that is based in competition. 

“We are home to one of the largest weekly changes in the country, we jumped 13 cents week over week, and just a month ago, we were at $4.02,” Treanor said.

As of Monday, the national gas average was $4.24. In Nevada, it was $5.25; $5.35 in Clark County and $5.22 in Washoe County. The cheapest was in Elko County at $4.60.

Peggy “nailed it on the head,” Restrepo said. She called to express concern about the environmental impact at the end of the high fuel cycle, leading to more interest in electric vehicles, and thus more mining in Northern Nevada. “It’s complicated,” he said.

Treanor provided tips on how to save on gas: 

  • Make sure your tires are filled to full capacity
  • Don’t idle for long times
  • Drive the speed limit
  • Try to combine errands into one long trip with several stops

But it’s not just an annoyance or ache in the wallet for some. Kenadie Cobbin-Richardson, a diversity consultant, said inflation and high gas prices hurt lower socio-economic communities, which are disproportionately Black and Latino, as well as rural households.
She said many people in these communities have no choice but to budget large amounts of income to gas. Most minority communities aren’t walkable or bikeable, and buses are not always an option depending on schedules. 

“I think that we … need to really look higher as far as what can actually be done. And when I really mean from a legislative standpoint, we have to really counteract rising inflation,” she said. 

Andrew Gnatovich, known to his large Twitter following as LV Cabbie Chronicles, has driven as a cabbie and rideshare for 15 years in Las Vegas. He said rideshare drivers are in a “very difficult position.” 

Several reports in recent months have cited rideshare drivers quitting their gigs due to high fuel costs.

“Recently, Uber had added a 50 cent or 45 cent increase to fuel, which frankly, isn't enough,” he said. “It's going up so fast that I think drivers really need more control over how much we're able to charge for the work, which currently, they're not at all.”

It isn’t clear how long gas prices will increase, but prices are expected normally to rise in summer. 

 

John Restrepo, economist, RCG Economics;  Andrew Gnatovich, Uber driver, former taxi driver;  John Treanor, spokesman, AAA;  Kenadie Cobbin-Richardson, diversity consultant, Kengen LLC

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Christopher Alvarez is a news producer and podcast audio editor at Nevada Public Radio for the State of Nevada program, and has been with them for over a year.