A combination of social distancing brought on by COVID-19 and lower crude oil prices has driven gas price averages in 29 states to less than $2 a gallon, including South Carolina.  

In the last week, crude oil prices dropped to $22 a barrel, a low not seen since 2002, AAA reports, as the price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia continues to push crude oil prices down.

Among the nation's top 10 least expensive markets, South Carolina comes in ninth with average price for a gallon of gas at $1.86 as of Monday. 

In Aiken County, the average price for regular gas sits at $1.774 a gallon, approximately 29 cents lower than Thursday's national average of $2.069 a gallon, according to AAA's website.

Aiken resident Ken Strickland was one of several drivers purchasing fuel at Circle K off Whiskey Road where regular gas was $1.67 a gallon as of Thursday afternoon. 


Ken Strickland fills up a gas can at the Circle K off Whiskey Road on Thursday. 

Strickland said the gas prices are great but it would be better if the coronavirus wasn't around. 

"If we didn't have the virus it would be great because I'd be up at the lake instead of working at my house," Strickland said. "It gives you extra money to do things with but you can't do anything because of the virus."  

Typically, gas prices start to trend higher at the beginning of spring with motorists traveling for spring break and enjoying warmer weather, Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson, said in a news release . 

However, that's not the case this year.  

“With Americans urged to stay at home and practice social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus, we are seeing less traffic on the roadways which will ultimately drive down demand, increase gasoline supply and push pump prices less expensive for the foreseeable future,” Casselano said .

While gas prices remain low in the Aiken area, Quick Pantry off University Parkway has lowered gas prices per gallon to a price that hasn't been seen in years. 

Masud Rana, operator of Quick Pantry, has lowered his store's prices to $1.09 a gallon in an effort to give back to the Aiken area. 

Rana hopes to continue these prices into next week. 

"I've been operating this business for over 19 years now," Rana said. "This neighborhood deserves something from us so we dropped down the prices and tried to sell it at the cheapest price, $1.09 a gallon." 

The store has also taken coronavirus precautions including disinfecting the store's counters, doors and gas pumps every hour, Rana said. 

Posted throughout the store are signs that read "Wear a mask to save yourself." 

"We have to be careful so it doesn't come to us," Rana said. "If it comes to us we'd be responsible for spreading it to others. This whole situation is not good. It's not mandatory to wear a mask to come inside but it is mandatory for them to save their life."  

Drivers do not need to rush to the pumps to fill up as AAA reports there is currently ample U.S. gasoline in supply and no disruption to distribution at gas stations.

Crude prices are expected to continue decreasing as the world grapples with how to contain the ongoing global public health crisis and associated economic challenges that could lead to a global recession, AAA reports. 

Until Saudi Arabia and Russia end their price standoff and the spread of COVID-19 ceases, domestic crude prices are likely to remain low.

Matthew Enfinger is the crime and courts reporter with the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @matt_enfinger