Gas prices down in NJ but overseas COVID spikes may stall further drop
A month ago, forecasters were predicting near-$3 per gallon gasoline prices in New Jersey as winter turned to spring.
That did happen, at least in the Trenton area, where AAA Mid-Atlantic measured the price of a gallon of regular gas at $3.00 flat last week.
As of Monday, prices are down a couple of cents statewide, but Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, said not much more downward action is expected for now.
"If you go to a Costco or a Wawa or QuickChek or someone that's got a reputation as having a very aggressive price, you might see some lower numbers," Kloza said, adding that there will be wide "diversity" at New Jersey gas stations — some of the lower locations that he mentioned, countered by other places where prices are very high.
The reason for this? Kloza said banks would have been mostly accurate in their expectations for $70 barrels of crude oil and $3 gas per gallon in the United States — if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it is not North America's COVID numbers that bring about this stagnation; rather, it's uncertainty overseas, as cases spike in places where the vaccine rollout has not been as robust.
"The past few weeks have been kind of crowded with lockdowns in France and Germany and other European countries, and now it looks as though we've got caseloads that are exploding in India," Kloza said.
The lockdowns, according to Kloza, can be a "fly in the ointment" in our quest to get back to what might otherwise be normal gas prices. The U.S. is importing a lot of other countries' gas right now, he said.
"The United States may be the world's cleanest dirty shirt in terms of places to get rid of your gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel," Kloza said.
As for when New Jersey motorists could see the chain of supply and demand get back to 2019 levels? It might not happen for a while.
That's because, Kloza said, while summer weekends — Friday through Monday, for instance — will feel as congested this year as they always have, it's the Tuesday through Thursday work habits that are changing, and might have changed forever.
"Some of those folks will be home, some of them will be working from home, and some of them will be on hybrid schedules where they'll be at home two days and away three days," Kloza said.
He also said that even though some events like Major League Baseball are allowing fans again, "normal" won't come until entertainment venues are back at full capacity and offering regular schedules of attractions.