Iowa City locals struggle with high gas prices this summer

Iowa City community members react to America’s expensive gas prices this summer and hope for some relief.


Jerod Ringwald

Michael Hanus watches a gas pump in Iowa City on Monday, June 27, 2022. Hanus paid $103.29 for about 22 gallons of gas.

Kate Murphy, News Reporter

This is the first story in a series exploring the impact of inflation on the Johnson County area.

Iowa City locals recently spoke out on the impact of the climbing of gas prices and how it has affected their daily lives this summer.

The current cost for one gallon of gasoline in the U.S. is the highest the nation has ever seen, costing $4.897 as of June 27, surpassing the 2008 cost of $4.103.

The impact on local residents has caused many to find alternative forms of transportation, such as bike riding and walking. These prices have also made it difficult for residents who drive or travel a lot for work. Some families have even canceled their summer vacations.

Susan Toth, a local driver’s education teacher, has expressed her concern about the rising gas prices and how it’s affecting young teenagers’ learning behind the wheel.

“I’ve never seen anything like this as a driver’s education teacher,” Toth said. “We’ve been piling five kids into a car now just to save money on gas.”

Toth said this is the first time gas prices have ever affected the way students learn in driver’s education, and teachers are told to remain in local areas while students learn to drive in order to save money on fuel.

The rising gas prices haven’t just affected Toth’s work life, but it has made her daily life just as hard. She tries to stay in town and get all her errands done at once if she can.

“I try to walk or ride my bike everywhere, because I rarely use my car unless I absolutely have to,” Toth said. “If I do, I try to get a lot of things done while I’m out so I don’t have to go out again.”

Toth also hasn’t been able to travel and visit her family this summer because of the rising fuel prices. Toth recently lost a loved one and was planning a trip with her family in order to be closer to them during this difficult time.

“My brother passed away recently, and my family was going to travel to Tennessee to spread his ashes,” Toth said. “My family is scattered around the country, so with these gas prices we decided to cancel and hope to reschedule soon.”

Sarah Frank, a University of Iowa economics professor, said people have been traveling more as COVID-19 restrictions have steadily decreased, but there is no end in sight for America’s rising gas prices.

“When the price of a good, such as gasoline, goes up, it means that our real income falls,” Frank said. “Even if our paycheck stays constant, we are able to buy less overall with that paycheck when prices are higher. There are indications that Americans are cutting back on other goods.”

Frank said the demand for gasoline is much higher than the supply, causing prices to increase.

“When Russia invaded Ukraine, the U.S. responded by banning Russian oil imports. This decreased the supply of gasoline as well,” she said.

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Frank also said that because of the pandemic, extreme price spikes have taken place more than they ever have before. Frank said prices for housing and airline tickets have increased by over 15 percent in 2022.

“The pandemic has caused demand to act in usual ways at the same time that the virus has impacted supply in unusual ways,” Frank said.

Iowa City City High School graduates, Elliot Dunnwald and Brooks Klefstad, have also noticed the increase in prices.

“I’ve definitely thought about it more now that they rose so much,” Klefstad said. “I try to drive less, but it’s hard.”

Dunnwald traveled a lot for his job, but now he and his coworkers have to share a car and hotel room.

“I’m going to college soon so I’m trying to save money for it, but paying 60 bucks every time I need gas makes it so tough,” Klefstad said. “It’s such a dent in our wallets.”

Toth, like many people in Iowa City, hopes gas prices go down soon so people can resume their normal lives.

“It is truly devastating,” Toth said. “I’m so thankful my children live near me.”