With gas prices giving folks sticker shock, what will it do to Whatcom’s economy?

While Whatcom County residents are suffering from sticker shock as they pump gasoline, local economists are weighing what impact the price increase will have on the overall local economy.

The average price for a gallon of gas in Whatcom County hit $4.61, according to AAA Washington. That smashed the previous high of $4.50 a gallon, set in June 2008. The $4.50 in 2008 for a gallon of gas was more painful for consumers then, however: Adjusting for inflation, that price would be around $5.88 in 2022, according to an inflation price calculator. Given that residents are regularly reminded about the price of gas with the signs around town and not, say, the price for a gallon of milk, the sudden jump will weigh heavy on the psyche.

“For some, gas at $4-4.50 a gallon doesn’t result in any change in behavior. For some, it does,” Hart Hodges, co-director at Western Washington University’s Center for Economic and Business Research, wrote in an email to The Bellingham Herald.

That could lead to less travel and less spending on nonessential items such as entertainment or restaurants. Or maybe not: Residents had already cut back on entertainment and dining out because of the pandemic. Last year’s stimulus money may also be keeping checking accounts elevated, Hodges said.