In the wake of two historic back-to-back hurricanes that curtailed fuel supply and increased demand, consumers say that they are feeling less optimistic about the state of the economy, according to a NACS Consumer Fuels Survey released this week.
The survey, conducted online by Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) Sept. 5-8, polled 1,162 U.S. adults who purchase fuel for a vehicle such as a car, truck or van at least once a month.
With gas prices rising 30 cents over the 30-day period to $2.59 at the time of the survey, Americans also say they are less optimistic about the economy.
Overall, 54 percent of Americans are optimistic about the economy, a six-point drop from prior month and the lowest level since October 2016.
More than four in five Americans—83 percent—say that gas prices impact their feelings about the economy.
According to NACS, the past few weeks have had a significant impact on the U.S. transportation market. Hurricane Harvey was the first major hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since 2005, and its impact will last far longer than the initial storm, with approximately 10 percent of U.S. refining capacity still offline.
More than four of five Americans say that gas prices are “much higher” (32 percent) or “somewhat higher” (50 percent) than prices were 30 days ago. This is the largest monthly increase reported in nearly five years of the NACS Monthly Consumer Fuels Survey, which began in January 2013.
Consumers in the southern U.S., who have been battered the most by recent storms, are the most likely to say gas prices today are “much higher” than 30 days ago. However, the general impact of “higher” prices is observed across all regions: 81 percent in the Northeast, 80 percent in Midwest, 88 percent in the South and 76 percent in the West.
“So far we are seeing the same patterns that we typically see after major storms, with retail prices lagging behind wholesale prices. From Aug. 23 through Sept. 4, wholesale prices jumped 21.1 percent and retail prices went up 12.7 percent,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS VP of strategic industry initiatives. “Similar metrics were seen after Katrina and Rita in 2005, the last time a major hurricane hit the U.S. mainland. Like their customers, retailers hope that the damage to the fueling infrastructure—including to their retail locations—is minimal and can quickly return to normal operations.”