Chicago could continue to see gas prices rise as demand rises, experts say

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Stir-crazy Chicagoans are finally breaking free of pandemic hibernation. Rush hour is returning to pre-COVID clogged interstates and Americans are remembering life on the road isn't cheap.

"I used to be able to pump like $25 and it would give me a full tank," driver Monica Ounsy said. "And now it's like $40 or over $40 just to get a full tank."

The price per gallon in Chicago has shot up 14 cents in just the last month. According to AAA, gas is averaging $2.96 per gallon nationally. In Illinois, it's higher than that, roughly $3.21 per gallon, and drivers in Chicago are paying a premium at $3.51 a gallon.

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There's a lot more traffic as employees are starting to leave their home offices and commute again. Gas is more expensive now than just a few weeks ago. Experts say the sticker shock is more about altered perception from unrealistically low prices over the last year.

"You have to look back at where we were in 2019," AAA spokesperson Molly Hart said. "Chicago's price in 2019 was $3.40. During the pandemic, the prices went down significantly and now they're going back up."

A glimpse of post-pandemic reality is reminding drivers of the pre-pandemic cost of everyday life that experts say is likely to persist through a busy summer travel season.

WATCH | GasBuddy analyst discusses rising gas prices in Chicago area
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The Chicago average for gas prices is now $3.31 a gallon, and it could continue to rise as demand rises, said Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy.



"Demand continues to rebound of course because of recovery from COVID, prices now over a dollar per gallon higher than we were a year ago. Unfortunately, it may continue to move up as demand continues to rise," GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan said.

GasBuddy warns that prices could rise even more if the Colonial Pipeline does not come back online soon. The cyberattack should not impact the Midwest, according to DeHaan.

"The Colonial Pipeline outage is not likely to impact prices here in Chicago," DeHaan. "Gasoline production in our area is not affected. Keep in mind, even in the areas affected by the pipeline outage, this is not a refining issue, that is production continues. This is more of a delivery issue, and that's why this event for those areas of the southeast, eastern Tennessee, Georgia, the Carolinas. It's not major and not likely drive prices up in a significant way. More so, it's going to be on the supply side, the pipeline not producing gasoline but delivering it."

The major pipeline went offline this weekend after a cyberattack.
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