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Coronavirus drives Tampa Bay gas prices below $2 a gallon in some spots

“Based on the direction of the market,” Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesman said, “I would expect that to be more prevalent in the coming days.”

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Gas prices have dropped below $2 a gallon at some Tampa Bay stations on Thursday, in part due to low demand in response to the novel coronavirus.

Bay area prices averaged $2.15 per gallon Thursday, according to AAA, the Auto Club Group. But many stations around the metro area were charging less than $2 per gallon.

“Based on the direction of the market,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins, “I would expect that to be more prevalent in the coming days.”

The last time gas prices dropped this low in the bay area was July 2017.

Earlier this week, international response to the coronavirus dampened travel demand, driving gas prices down as oil production remained steady. That, Jenkins said, has been exacerbated by a series of recent developments, including President Donald Trump’s Wednesday night announcement of a ban on travel between the U.S. and Europe, the NBA suspending the remainder of its season and Tom Hanks’ and wife Rita Wilson’s infection.

Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company also announced it would be increasing production next month because Russia has refused to lower its output in the face of falling demand, potentially glutting the market.

But do low gas prices matter much as more would-be drivers stay home?

“You’ve got people who are responding to this virus in different ways,” Jenkins said.

While some practice social distancing, others are turning toward travel because of the low prices.

While it’s too early to tell how long the low gas prices may last, Jenkins said it’s possible Tampa Bay could see gas prices of $1.80 a gallon or lower in the coming days and weeks.

Florida gas prices averaged $2.22 per gallon Thursday, according to AAA, down 9 cents over the week. Nationally, gas was $2.33 a gallon Thursday.

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