What Impact Does the COVID Delta Variant Have on Gas Prices?

The nation's average gas price has fallen slightly after reaching high for 2021, according to data released on Monday. Both industry monitor GasBuddy and the American Automobile Association (AAA) attributed the decrease in price partly to the increase in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant.

Last week, the nation's gasoline demand surged to a high for 2021, which was reportedly higher than during the week of the July 4 holiday. "This shows that motorists aren't slowing their appetite for hitting the road just yet, and that could further boost prices should demand remain hot," Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said in a press statement on Monday.

The nation's average gas price fell 2.9 cents per gallon from a week ago, according to the latest information from GasBuddy, which compiles its data from more than 11 million individual price reports covering over 150,000 gas stations across the country.

The national average gas price was $3.14 per gallon as of Monday morning. The price of diesel also fell slightly, dropping 0.7 cents in the last week to $3.26 per gallon.

Civil Rights Racism New Hampshire Gas Station
An increase in COVID cases has caused a slight decrease in the cost of gas, according to industry analysts. In this undated stock photo, a hand holds a gas pump while fueling a car. Muhammet Akbulut/Getty

Even still, the national average price for gasoline is 4.7 cents higher than a month ago and 97.2 cents higher than a year ago. De Haan said the recent lower prices and increased demand could be credited to two main factors.

"With oil prices struggling under the weight of a rise in new COVID cases thanks to the Delta variant and OPEC's increase in oil production, average gas prices in most states finally drifted lower," he said in Monday's statement.

A report from AAA on Monday also cited the Delta variant as a factor in the decline in gas prices.

"Concerns about the Delta variant significantly impacted the crude oil market last week," Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesperson, said in a Monday news release. "Gas prices may not move much this week, as futures prices finished slightly above a week ago."

On July 18, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies agreed to a deal to increase crude oil production by 400,000 barrels a day each month starting in August through the end of 2022.

However, AAA spokesperson Jeanette McGee said she doesn't anticipate customers will see much difference at the pump in the immediate future because of the deal. Speaking to Marketwatch, McGee said, "I'm not expecting gas prices to drastically drop between now and Labor Day."

De Haan said motorists should at least take advantage of the current small dip before something—pandemic-related or otherwise—adversely affects prices.

"For now, motorists should enjoy the perhaps brief respite at the pump and buckle up for what might be a bumpy finish to summer," he said.