These days, oil prices seem to go nowhere but down. In Texas, drivers are paying less than $2 per gallon at the pump, on average. So what do low gas prices mean for consumers, and for this oil-producing state’s economy?
Right now, a gallon of gas will cost you, on average, $1.98 in Dallas. In Fort Worth, it’s a few cents cheaper. But if you’re still looking to save, drive down US Route 377 from Fort Worth to the Valero in Benbrook, where Cody Martin of Granbury stopped off to fill up his big white Toyota truck for $1.69 a gallon.
“I have a business and we have five vehicles, so I see a huge difference each month when I pay our gasoline bill,” he says. “And that leaves more money to utilize for other things that we need.”
Martin says even though he can invest some of the cost savings back into his office supply business, some of those savings are making up for the fact that business slowed down when low energy prices took some of the oomph out of the local economy.
“I think it’s probably an overall win for us even though we did lose some business when the oil and gas prices in Barnett Shale fizzled out,” Martin says.
“Where you see the brunt of the impact of the decline of the energy sector is in Houston,” says Pia Orrenius, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. She says the Dallas-Fort Worth economy is more diverse.
“North Texas is tied more closely to the rest of the US economy than it is to the Texas energy sector, and so really North Texas has been doing quite well this year,” she says.
Across the street from that Benbrook Valero, Christopher Walker is filling up at the Quik Trip. He says even with cheaper prices, he’s not sure he’s really putting any less money into his tank.
“The gas is cheaper now, but now that it’s cheaper, I’m driving more because of it,” he says.
When prices were higher, Walker planned his trips out so that he’d drive less. Now, he says he doesn’t think twice about hopping in his Honda and heading down to Stephenville to visit a buddy.
“When gas was three bucks? No,” he says.
Economist Derrill Watson from Tarleton State University says when you multiply that freer spending by all the drivers in Texas, it makes a difference.
“There isn’t just one particular sector that’s booming because of this. Rather, the money goes a little bit to health care, a little bit to better technology, and a little bit to some tourism,” Watson says. “And so a lot of places are seeing some small gains, and they add up to a big gain.”
Watson says the gain would’ve been bigger back before the US started ramping up oil and gas production in recent years. Still, he says, it’s a net positive. And it’s one he expects to go on for at least the rest of the year.
Back at that Quik Trip, Pam Cummings says that sounds good to her. A few years ago, when gas prices were high, the middle school teacher moved from her job at a Dallas school to one just a few miles from her home. Now, she says, with two kids in college, there’s no shortage of expenses to spend extra cash on.
“Rent, college, food, books, you name it,” she says.
The only question she has is whether it can last until her youngest graduates.