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Daily Journal
     March 13, 2020      #44-73 KDJ

How low can gas prices go? 

By Lee Provost

As area per-gallon gasoline costs have dropped below $2 per gallon and even lower than $1.90 per gallon at some stations, the question now on the minds of motorists is how low can prices go and how long will this last?

Those questions are hard to answer for even those who monitor the ups and downs of petroleum prices on a daily basis.

Phil Kambic, Riverside Healthcare president and CEO, shown here discussing the first COVID-19 case last week, addressed issues regarding the virus and the hospital’s readiness during a Thursday program with Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong. Daily Journal/Tiffany Blanchette/

“We certainly believe within the next two to three weeks, gas prices in the Kankakee County area could drop 20 to 30 cents,” said Allison Mac, a petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com. “Motorists could be seeing prices in the $1.60 to $1.70 a gallon range.”

Prices have not been this low in the Kankakee County market since February 2016, Mac noted.

The plunging prices are, of course, a direct result of the coronavirus and the impact it is having on business and industry. The second major factor is the oil price war taking place between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

In Watseka, a team at Iroquois Memorial Hospital is setting up a tent as part of its emergency preparedness

Per-barrel oil has dropped to $32 a barrel, nearly a 50 percent drop from the January average crude price of $63.82.

“This is very much unprecedented. We never foresaw the coronavirus affecting developed countries — like Italy, Germany and U.S. In China, the people are not consuming oil. People are staying home,” Mac said.

Riverside Healthcare paramedic Bruce Lane works inside an ambulance at the Kankakee hospital. Daily Journal/File

With prices falling so rapidly and so dramatically, Mac advises motorists not to fill up their gas tanks. Instead, she said, only put in a half-tank so future price drops can be taken advantage of.

“The market is so volatile. We now look at the market as pre-coronavirus and post-coronavirus,” she said.

So how long will these depressed prices remain? That question is hard for anyone to answer, but Mac believes for at least the next few months.

She also believes foreign travel will be down this summer, so perhaps domestic travel will increase, so lower gas prices could spur summertime travel.

Stay tuned. These are unprecedented times.

The Daily Journal’s Lee Provost writes about local business rumors, comings and goings and other notes of interest. Anyone with information to share should contact Provost at lprovost@daily-journal.com or 815-937-3364.

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Lee Provost
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