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VERIFY: Are gas prices dropping because of the coronavirus?

One expert told 12News the virus outbreak in China is one reason fuel prices are seeing a decrease, but adds there are other contributing factors.

BEAUMONT, Texas — Drivers in Southeast Texas aren't complaining about the recent trend in gas prices. According to AAA, the average gas price in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area has dropped from $2.25 to $2.09 in the last month. 

The first reports of coronavirus came out around New Year, so does the coronavirus outbreak in China also have an effect on fuel prices?

Dr. James Slaydon, Lamar University Chair of Economics and Finance, says it's not a coincidence.

He helped shed some light on what could be leading to the changes. 

There are three things to consider.

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One factor, is annual gas price trends. 

"In the summer, a lot of traveling gas goes up and in the winter, with the north and heating oil, we have it go up. Then, in the following spring it goes down," Slaydon said. 

GasBuddy charts back that up and also report that the average gas price nationally and in the state of Texas, has gone down as well since the beginning of the year.

Slaydon tells 12News February is typically one of the lowest months of the year for gas price averages.

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The second factor, China's economy.

"Expectations for the output in China are dropping significantly, which means the Chinese demand for oil is going to go down," Slaydon said. 

China is one of the world's largest importers of oil. 

Slaydon says the uncertainty of China's economy, with the number of people sick, are contributing to the falling crude oil prices. 

Crude oil roughly cost $50 per barrel now, which is $5 less than what it was in February 2019. 

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The third factor is the amount of people traveling.

American Airlines, Delta and United are among airliners who have suspended flights to China.

Slaydon tells 12News that the fear of coronavirus could easily keep travel down.

"The normal travel season this summer is probably going to be less, worldwide and nationally, just because with everybody being a little bit afraid of what's going on," Slaydon said. 

Take all three factors into consideration and we can verify that the coronavirus outbreak is affecting the drop in U.S gas prices, but it's not the sole reason. 

Curious about gas prices in Southeast Texas?

As of Wednesday night, GasBuddy reports prices range between $1.85 and $2.09 in Jefferson, Orange and Hardin County.

The $1.85, the area's lowest, is Murphy USA located along Memorial Boulevard in Port Arthur according to the tech company.

12News works to separate fact from fiction, so if there is something you'd like us to verify send us an email: verify@12newsnow.com. 

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