AAA: No signs of relief from rising gas prices on horizon
The wince that motorists around the Ohio Valley give when they see the price of gasoline at the pump won’t be going away anytime soon, according to AAA officials. In fact, drivers should brace for even higher prices in the future.
The national average for regular unleaded gas as of Monday was $4.483, according to the AAA website. That’s up from $4.328 a week ago and $4.077 a month ago. In West Virginia, the average Monday was $4.289 per gallon, up from $4.141 a week ago and $3.958 a month ago. In Ohio, the average Monday was $4.294 per gallon, down from $4.092 a week ago and $3.784 a month ago.
Those numbers might not be the peak, said Jim Garrity, public and legislative affairs manager for AAA East Central. Brent crude oil was trading at about $101 per barrel at points a week ago and at $108 per barrel on Friday settled at just over $114 per barrel on Monday.
“It’s been creeping upward,” Garrity said. “It’s all eyes on crude always, because it’s the main ingredient in gasoline. What I’m curious to see is that there’s a little bit of a latent effect. Oil prices were up (Monday). Where it takes a couple of days for that to hit the pump, the question is when is it going to hit the pump?”
Two other factors driving up prices are the switch to the summer blend of gasoline and the increase in demand. Summer blends, Garrity said, keep gasoline from evaporating at higher temperatures. The additives that allow that are more expensive.
Plus, he said, Americans are adamant to hit the road this summer for vacations they couldn’t take over the last couple of years due to COVID-19 restrictions. More people on the roads means a greater need for gas and higher prices as a result.
As Americans try to avoid spending significantly more at each fill-up, Garrity said that all the little suggestions for motorists – regularly scheduled oil changes, properly inflated tires, using air conditioning less – make a difference and, he said, “turns pennies into dollars.”
Yet there is one big thing drivers can do to keep their gas budgets down, Garrity said.
“The biggest thing people can do almost immediately is to slow down,” he said. “The faster you drive, every five miles an hour over 50 you drive, you’re making the car work harder and making it burn through gas far less efficiently. At the very most, follow the speed limit.”
Soaring gas prices are a beast for those with one or two vehicles. For entities that use hundreds – like the City of Wheeling – there is an even greater need to stay focused on gas budgets.
Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron said the city does not curtail the use of many of its vehicles – fire trucks, police cruisers and the ones that fix potholes and clear snow. Those must run.
Yet the city mostly stays a little bit under its fuel budget, he added, and there are opportunities throughout the fiscal year to make revisions in the budget to account for things like rapid leaps in gas prices.
“We’ll adjust the fuel budgets based on where we’re at and what the prices are at the time,” Herron said. “As you go through the fiscal year, there are line items that exceed expectations in terms of expenditures such as gas. And there are others that are below. We generally make adjustments by moving funds as the year progresses from line items that might not hit budget.”
If that doesn’t work, he continued, the city will look at delaying capital expenditures.
There was a point a few weeks back in the Ohio Valley that crude oil prices, and gas prices along with them, were plateauing and gas prices fell back below $4 per gallon. Garrity said drivers shouldn’t anticipate seeing any such drops in crude price anytime soon.
“It is showing no signs of doing that,” Garrity said. “In fact, it’s going in the opposite direction.”