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Flip-Side of Low Gas Prices: Full Price is "Never Paid" at the Pump

PHOTO: While Connecticut drivers are paying less at the pump, local environmental advocates warn there could be greater long-term costs from increased air pollution - and even more potholes on the roads. Photo credit: M. Clifford.
PHOTO: While Connecticut drivers are paying less at the pump, local environmental advocates warn there could be greater long-term costs from increased air pollution - and even more potholes on the roads. Photo credit: M. Clifford.
December 23, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. - Low gas prices are likely to give the economy a boost by giving drivers in New England some extra money in their pockets, but there is a flip side to that good news.

John Calandrelli, program coordinator with the Sierra Club Connecticut Chapter, says more cars on the road means even more time lost commuting - which is already a big problem in Connecticut.

He says cars already account for about 42 percent of the state's air pollution, so if more people get behind the wheel, the health consequences for the state will be greater.

"Higher pollution means higher hospitalization rates, higher asthma rates, and higher health insurance bills," says Calandrelli. "So we never pay it at the pump, but we choose to pay it in other ways."

Calandrelli also says more cars on the road means greater costs for the Department of Transportation, which already has enough trouble trying to patch all of the potholes associated with a typical New England winter. He says the state is making slow but steady progress in providing cleaner mass transit alternatives.

Michael Green, public relations manager with the American Automobile Association (AAA), says the national average gas price of around $2.50 per gallon is the lowest in more than five years. He says an oversupply of oil globally is causing prices to fall, and predicts they'll stay low for much of the new year.

"It is a pretty safe bet that gas prices will remain relatively low throughout 2015," says Green. "After that, who knows? There is the possibility U.S. oil production could decrease due to the fact that crude oil prices are so low."

Green says gas is now selling for less than $2.00 a gallon in several states - down from this year's peak national average of $3.70 in April. AAA estimates the average American family is saving about $100 a month at the pump. Altogether, Green says Americans are saving about $400 million per day on gas.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - CT