How the Russian-Ukrainian Crisis Affects NJ Gas Prices and Your Wallet
The bad news is that gasoline in New Jersey is up 21 cents a gallon from a month ago and 85 cents from a year ago, to an average of $3.61 a gallon. The good news?
There’s apparently nothing on the horizon, said Robert Sinclair, senior director of public affairs for AAA Northeast.
Russia’s provocations in Ukraine – and the start of US sanctions on Tuesday – have steadily pushed up the price of oil, while normal seasonal production costs are driving up prices at refineries. It comes on top of months of increases as supplies failed to meet pent-up demand from pandemic-weary motorists.
“Yes, we can expect gasoline prices to rise 10 to 15 cents per gallon in the coming weeks,” Sinclair said.
On Tuesday, the price of a barrel of Brent crude, the standard for international oils, rose by around $4.50, or almost 5%, to around $98. At this time last year, the price was $62 a barrel.
The last time gasoline prices were this high was in 2012, when severe storms and tensions in the Middle East pushed the average price per gallon to $3.62.
Gas prices are rising
President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that it was critical that his administration work to mitigate any rise in gasoline prices in the United States due to Western sanctions against Russia.
Even if he succeeds, prices should rise in the coming weeks, like every year in the spring. Indeed, refineries switch from a winter blend to a summer blend between mid-March and mid-April. Winter temperatures affect the ability of emissions to evaporate and require different additives. The summer mix is more expensive and comes at a time when demand is increasing.
By mid-April, New Jersey stations are expected to switch to the summer mix.
“After that, someone is selling you snake oil if they predict gas prices for Memorial Day or July 4,” AAA’s Sinclair said.
How much will it cost you?
The Federal Highway Administration estimates that the typical American travels about 14,000 miles per year and consumes about 560 gallons of gasoline.
While the average New Jerseyan drives slightly less, the current difference of 85 cents means an average driver will pay about $500 more.
Among its neighbors — New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania — New Jersey has the cheapest gas on average, but still sits above the national average ($3.53) by up to 8 cents.
Add to inflation
For guys like Randy Longstaff of West Milford, who operates Longstaff Paving, rising fuel costs mean a double whammy for his business.
Heavy equipment becomes more expensive to operate and oil is a major component of asphalt.
“I’m just starting to feel it,” Longstaff said.
By the time the March-April bump arrives, it will be his busy season. He will probably pay more for equipment and gasoline than last year.
“That’s a hard thing to convey to consumers,” Longstaff said. “It makes everything more competitive.”
Rising oil and gas prices are fueling the inflation that has plagued the economy since 2021. It drives up the costs of shipping goods, transportation and providing services.
It’s even affecting gas stations, said Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience-Automotive Association.
He said the pain felt by drivers and other oil consumers is the same as that felt by gas station owners, except for gas station owners, it comes earlier.
A typical tank truck that drives to a gas station holds about 9,000 gallons. “If the gas goes up 10 cents a gallon, that’s $900 more out of pocket,” Risalvato said. But stations are reluctant to pass on the higher costs to customers.
Gas stations make about 10 cents a gallon of gasoline. More of their profits come from the repair shop or, increasingly, from the sales of the convenience stores.
“They’ll make more with a $2.50 cup of coffee than with a 10-gallon refill,” Risalvato said.
This is why it is crucial to remain competitive with prices. Even a penny-per-gallon difference can cause a noticeable drop in sales for a gas station or convenience store.
“It’s psychological,” he said.
Ways to save gas
According to Consumer Reports magazine, the best way to save money is to slow down.
The consumer advocacy publication measured the gas mileage of a Nissan Altima and a Toyota RAV4 traveling at 55, 65 and 75 mph.
He determined that going from 65 mph to 55 mph increased fuel economy by 6 mpg in the Altima and 8 mpg in the RAV4.
Driving at 75 instead of 65 meant a loss of nearly 7 mpg in the Altima and 6 mpg in the RAV4.
“Another way to look at it: Accelerating from 55 to 75 mph is like going from a compact car to a large SUV,” reported the Consumer Reports website. Frequent acceleration and braking reduced the mileage of an older Toyota Camry by 2-3 mpg.
Tire pressure is not really a factor. Consumer Reports found that a midsize sedan lost 1.3 mpg on the highway when the tires were 10 psi underinflated. That’s a big drop in pressure for a modest drop in fuel efficiency.
However, the consumer group noted that under-inflated tires compromise a car’s handling and braking, wear out faster and run much hotter, which can lead to tire failure.
“For safety reasons, check tire pressure at least once a month,” he said.
Matt Fagan is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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