Why A Gas Price Spike Could Hit Some States Harder Than Others

March 17, 2010
A surge to $4-a-gallon gas could affect drivers, and local economies, in much more severe ways in Mississippi or Louisiana than in New York or Connecticut.

That's one of the results of a new analysis from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which crunches the numbers to point out how much more vulnerable some states are than others to price spikes, figuring in per-capita income and how much of it is spent on fuel.

As we reported last week, $3-a-gallon gas, on a national average, is predicted again later this spring and into the summer. Though much higher prices aren't anticipated it's still quite possible that if anything happened to disrupt refinery operation or our foreign-oil-dependent supply chain, another $4 price spike could happen.

Mississippi's gas prices have been consistently well below those of New York or Connecticut and rank among the lowest in the country. But Mississippi could hurt the most from a price hike as it has one of the lowest per-capita and household income levels in the country and was in the lowest 20 percent of states for personal-income growth as of mid-2009.

Based on current 2009 gas-price numbers, Mississippi drivers are spending more than six percent of their income, on average on gas, while Connecticut drivers barely spend 2.5 percent.

The NRDC looked at the total amount of motor gasoline used, the average price in that state, and the number of licensed drivers, then considered per-capita income to find the percentage of income that goes to fueling up.

First, the NRDC considered average prices in 2009, when pump prices had remained quite steady and low. It found that Mississippi, Montana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina drivers had spent the largest percentage of their income on gasoline, while Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Hampshire drivers spent the least. For an idea on the range, Connecticut drivers spent 2.52 percent of their income (about $1,391), on average, on gasoline, while Mississippi drivers spent 6.22 percent, or about $1,881 annually.

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