gas prices

A proposal to increase Oklahoma's fuel taxes has been rejected by an Oklahoma House committee.

The House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget Tuesday voted 14-9 against the bill that would raise gasoline and diesel fuel taxes in the state.

If you've stopped for gas lately, you've probably noticed a price jump.

A week ago, the national average for a gallon of regular gas was around $1.70. Now it's about $1.80, according to GasBuddy.com, which tracks prices.

So rising gas prices must reflect shrinking oil supplies, right?

Nope.

As winter starts to wind down, you may be stepping up your plans for a spring-break trip.

But have you checked airfares lately?

If you haven't looked since Christmas, you may be in for a surprise: Many fares are up. In fact, the largest U.S. carriers have nudged rates higher three times in recent weeks.

Farecompare.com, a fare tracking website, says airlines are charging $22 more for round-trip flights this year. Most of the hikes are hitting smaller cities and less competitive markets.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Crashing crude oil prices are fueling big bargains for American motorists, who are driving away with tanks full of inexpensive gasoline. Today, the national average is $1.71 for a gallon of regular unleaded. Oklahoma could be one of the first places in the country to see gas prices dip below $1 a gallon.

A shiny black Mercedes pulls up near a pump, the bell rings and Ross Ledbetter tells the driver to pop the hood.

“It’s showing full,” he shouts. “You have a concern?”

As part of the budget plan unveiled this week, President Obama would dramatically increase spending on “clean transportation infrastructure,” including high-speed rail, self-driving cars and incentives for states to improve mass transit.

Happy times are here again at the gas pump. The price of oil keeps falling, and Americans are filling their tanks for less than $2 a gallon. The government says cheaper gasoline put an extra $100 billion into drivers' wallets last year alone.

That seems like it would be good for the economy. Turns out, it might not be.

"Is it possible that lower oil prices could actually hurt the U.S. economy?" asks Vipin Arora, an economist with the U.S. Energy Information Administration. "I think the answer could be yes."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Oklahoma, the economy runs on oil. The energy industry drives 1 in 5 jobs and is tied to almost every type of tax source. So falling oil prices have created a state budget crisis. Joe Wertz of State Impact Oklahoma sent this report.

There were high-fives this week from Detroit to Washington, D.C., as carmakers celebrated record auto sales.

Americans bought 17.5 million cars and trucks in 2015. That's a huge turnaround from 2009, and the Obama administration cheered the rebound as vindication of the president's decision to rescue General Motors and Chrysler from bankruptcy.

"Because of the policy decisions that were made by this administration to place a bet on those workers, America has won, and our economy has been better for it," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday.

Like cheap gasoline?

Then you're in luck. Experts say gas prices very likely will keep falling. That's because a report released Wednesday showed a sharp increase in gasoline inventories.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said that last week, companies added another 10.6 million barrels of gasoline, creating the biggest surge in supply since 1993. That added to fears that supplies will far outstrip demand for a long time.

Joe Wertz

A $900 million hole in next year's Oklahoma state budget and a projected shortfall for the last six months of the current fiscal year could deepen if the price of oil and natural gas stays at low levels not seen for more than a decade.

The price of oil has hovered around $35 per barrel for nearly two weeks; forecasters predict an average price of $42.83 through June 30. The projected price of oil for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is $53.57 a barrel, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

Pages