Record gas prices trouble New Yorkers on the road

Caryl Anne Francia, Business Editor

The average gas price in New York State has reached an all-time high, even surpassing the national average as of March 14. Unsure if they can afford these prices, drivers nationwide are on edge.

The state’s average price for regular gas increased to $4.45 per gallon on March 14 from $2.90 per gallon the same time last year, according to the American Automobile Association. Last year, the state’s average reached $3.78 per gallon on Nov. 29.

In Manhattan, the average price of regular gas is currently at $4.80 per gallon. An Upper West Side gas station even charged as high as $5.89 per gallon on March 10, according to CBS News.

“Between electricity bills coming in more and more expensive and gas costing more every day, I don’t know even know what I can afford at the supermarket anymore,” Brooklyn resident and driver Lorna White told amNewYork.

Like its tri-state area neighbors, New York’s average surpassed the national average of $4.325 per gallon.

Before 2022, the highest recorded state average price for regular gas was $4.14 per gallon in July 2008 due to insufficient oil production and Middle East tensions. That record was surpassed on March 10 with $4.46 per gallon.

While pandemic inflation and supply chain shortages are factors in this surge, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is attributed to the spike last month. Prices soared from $3.675 per gallon on Feb. 13 to $4.45 per gallon on March 13, according to AAA.

U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on March 8 banning Russian crude oil, among other energy sources, from being imported. While the United States imported only 3% of its oil from Russia, oil prices are global of oil and included by international trade. The price of crude oil reached its peak at $139.13 per barrel on March 6.

“I said I would level with the American people from the beginning,’’ Biden said in a briefing. “And when I first spoke to this, I said defending freedom is going to cost — it’s going to cost us as well, in the United States.’’

New Yorkers are adjusting their driving habits to afford living essentials such as food and rent. Timothy Gutbrod, an Albany and driving instructor, told The New York Times that he can’t afford to go on “relaxing drives” anymore.

Businesses that rely on gas for their services are also trying to combat the surging prices. In New York City, the average number of daily rides by Uber or Lyft Inc. was around 430,000 in September 2021. Uber Technologies Inc. added a fuel surcharge for customers on March 16 for the next 60 days. Uber customers will have to pay an additional $0.45 or $0.55 per ride and $0.35 or $0.45 for Uber Eats orders.

“I wouldn’t go out of my way if this was only happening for now,’’ Cristian Hidalgo, an Uber driver from Brooklyn, told amNewYork, “but it has been coming for a while now and it seems like it might get much worse.’’

There are calls to suspend the federal gas tax, which is approximately 18.3 cents per gallon. Last year, New Yorkers expressed opposition to legislation that would increase the state’s gas tax from 33.3 cents per gallon to 55 cents per gallon for environmental reasons.

State senators Peter Oberacker and Fred Akshar recently introduced legislation suspending the tax.

“Families and small businesses are struggling like never before with unprecedented cost increases in nearly every facet of their lives, especially at the gas pump,” Akshar wrote. “While our leaders in Albany and Washington seem more interested in pleasing their political interests than easing the burdens on everyday New Yorkers, this legislation puts our people’s economic survival first.”

Price gouging at gas stations is also a concern, with New York State Attorney General Letitia James investigating the matter and advising anyone experiencing such to contact her office.

To save money on fuel, drivers may turn to GasBuddy to find gas stations with cheaper prices. Carpooling and public transportation are also available options, although they’re not for everyone. Time will only tell how New Yorkers will get out of this financial gridlock.