NJ gas prices plateau at record high, South Jersey responds

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Alex Romano, a circus performer from Blackwood, was lucky enough to get a temporary reprieve from last week’s record petrol prices. Just before pump prices took off earlier this month, he bought a small electric motorcycle from a friend.

“I really rode my bike,” said Romano, 31, pointing to his bike. “To get around locally, at least, because of gas prices.”

He still has to travel by car for work, so he increased his booking fee to account for gas expenses.

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Although not everyone in South Jersey has an electric motorcycle, almost everyone is affected by high petrol prices, even as they continue to deflate.

The spike in gas prices was largely caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine last month, but prices were already rising before the war began.

The average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline in New Jersey crossed the $3.25 mark in October of last year and approached but never exceeded $3.50 throughout the holiday season, according to data from GasBuddy. The price softened to around $3.35 until the end of January when it started to slowly rise. Between February 6 and 8, the average price per gallon exceeded $3.50. On February 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, a gallon cost $3,621. Two weeks into the dispute, prices peaked at around $4,377 on March 11, and a week later fell to $4,244 on March 17.

However, the impact of this price spike will continue to be felt for weeks, according to Bhavesh Patel, owner of Country Farms, a gas station and convenience store in Hainesport.

Patel, who has worked in the petrol station business for 25 years, said young people don’t care about the price change while older people panic. Either way, people will buy gasoline no matter what, he said.

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Even if the price skyrockets, people will still buy the same amount of gas because they have to to get to work or just to get around. In economic terms, this makes gas an inelastic good. Simply put, that means gas prices are likely to stay high for the foreseeable future, Patel said.

From wholesale suppliers to stations like his and Wawa, companies are still making a profit, he said.

“They’re making money, why should (prices) go down?” he said last week. “Today is supposed to drop, but no one has reduced the price.”

Gas prices hit a record high in early March, affecting individuals and businesses in South Jersey.  One such business is Country Farms convenience store in Hainesport, NJ, pictured here March 14, 2022.

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Doug Turner, a 61-year-old environmental well driller from Barrington, explained the consumer side of the problem while getting gas at Country Farms.

“We have to do what we have to do to keep working,” he said. “Those of us who go out to work every day, we’re going to pay dearly. Luckily, people who stay home to work are doing well.

At the end of the month, many people living paycheck to paycheck come in for gas, Patel said. They ask attendants to only put $5 or $10 worth of gas in their tank, which isn’t a lot when a gallon costs more than $4. It feels bad for them, he said, especially for customers driving larger vehicles like SUVs.

During price spikes like this, customers tend to get angry with Patel and his employees.

Recently, some have gone so far as to claim that employees are scamming them out of gas. Because their car’s gas needle didn’t move much, if at all, when they bought a small amount of gas, they filed a complaint with the Burlington County government, Patel said. . A county official found everything to be in order, he said, but still had to pay a $200 inspection fee.

When you spend $5 on gas, “the needle doesn’t move,” he says, exasperated.

He has loyal customers, however, who don’t complain, he says.

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Gas station attendant Amir Pervaiz walks into the Country Farms convenience store in Hainesport, NJ on March 14, 2022. Gasoline prices hit an all-time high in early March, impacting individuals and businesses South Jersey businesses.

Josh Luger, of Bordentown, vice president of operations for a graduation product company, said he factors gas prices into his team’s return-to-office strategy and into the strategy busy season ahead.

“I don’t want them spending a lot of their salary to get into the office,” he said. “It influences us and it definitely holds back other things in person,” he said.

He schedules their in-person responsibilities for one day a week instead of two shorter days, he said. This way, employees will only have to travel to the company’s office in Newark when needed.

The company, which sells class t-shirts, flowers and other school paraphernalia at area high school and college graduations, is looking for ways to optimize employee travel between home, office and schools, he said.

As far as personal travel goes, Luger hasn’t postponed anything yet.

“I have family in Pittsburgh that I haven’t seen in a long time, and it’s a long drive,” he said. “So is that free weekend to go visit family (and) stay in their house, really any more free?”

Regarding the war between Ukraine and Russia, he said: “If it costs me a little more, I think it is worth it.”

Aedy Miller covers education and the economy for the Burlington County Times, Courier-Post and The Daily Journal. He is a multimedia journalist from central Jersey and a recent graduate of George Washington University.

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