NEW JERSEY – With most of the pandemic restrictions in the back, more and more people are getting behind the wheel to enjoy the summer. But those trips come at a steep price, as gas prices in New Jersey average nearly $5 a gallon.
Turmoil in the global oil trade, increased demand for summer travel and oil and gas companies continuing to make strong profits have contributed to record gas prices across the country.
The average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline in New Jersey was $4.99 on Monday, according to AAA. Five counties average over $5 – Somerset ($5.08), Essex ($5.04), Cape May ($5.03), Morris and Mercer (both $5.02).
Diesel prices averaged $6.12 a gallon in New Jersey on Monday.
AAA predicted 35 million travelers would hit the road on Memorial Day weekend — the highest weekend number since 2019. The auto club also expected 860,330 in New Jersey to travel by car for Memorial Day weekend getaways.
“So far, pent-up wanderlust caused by the pandemic has outweighed high prices at the pump for many consumers,” said AAA spokesman Andrew Gross. “But 67% of drivers surveyed recently told us they would change their driving habits if gas reached $4.50 a gallon. That number jumps to 75% at $5 a gallon. If pump prices continue increase, will people change their summer travel plans? That remains to be seen.”
On Memorial Day in the United States, European Union leaders agreed to cut Russian oil imports by about 90% by the end of the year. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the EU has debated how to sanction Moscow despite the bloc’s dependence on Russian oil. The EU decision has a major impact on global oil trade, which saw oil prices surge above $120 a barrel on Monday.
Meanwhile, 28 of the world’s leading oil and gas companies made $93.3 billion in combined profits in the first quarter of the year, according to The Guardian. Shell made $9.1 billion in profits from January to March, while Exxon made $8.8 billion, about triple what the companies made in this period last year.
Last week, New York suspended its gasoline tax until the end of the year, becoming the fourth state to do so after Connecticut, Georgia and Maryland. New Jersey lawmakers introduced several bills aimed at easing the burden at the pump, but none became law.
State Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33) has sponsored a bill that would give drivers of New Jersey-licensed vehicles a $400 to $800 rebate and a three-month user rate holiday of NJ Transit. A bill by state Sen. Edward Durr (R-3) would provide a tax refund of up to $500 per taxpayer to offset gas prices and inflationary costs.