As Oil Prices Rise, Follow Pump Prices; tips for getting the most out of every gallon of gas

Ongoing unrest between Russia and Ukraine continues to have a ripple effect on the oil market, which in turn is driving up the price of gasoline in the United States

The national average for a gallon of gasoline rose to $3.53, four cents more than a week ago. The United States and its European allies have already announced the first tranche of sanctions against Russia, with tougher financial sanctions promised if Russian aggression continues.

At some point, Russia may retaliate by withholding oil from the world market. This market has been tight, struggling to keep up with growing demand as economies around the world emerge from COVID-related downturns. Oil and gas prices have already risen on fears that the Ukraine-Russia crisis will disrupt supplies worldwide.

“Russia is one of the world’s largest oil producers, behind the United States and Saudi Arabia,” said Lori Weaver Hawkins, public affairs manager, AAA Blue Grass. “And if they choose to take their oil off the world market, such a move will result in higher gas prices for American motorists.”

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to new data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), total national gasoline inventories fell by 1.3 million barrels to 247.1 million barrels last week. Gasoline demand, on the other hand, fell from 9.13 million barrels per day to 8.57 million barrels per day. Typically, a drop in gas demand during the winter would put downward pressure on pump prices, but high crude prices continue to drive pump prices higher.

Today’s national average for a gallon of gasoline is $3.53, 21 cents higher than a month ago and 90 cents higher than a year ago. The average gasoline price in Kentucky is now $3.23, up 25 cents last month and 78 cents higher than a year ago.

Checking nearby, the average price of a gallon of unleaded in Ohio is $3.33, West Virginia $3.32, Virginia $3.40, Tennessee $3.30 $, Indiana $3.36, Illinois $3.39, and Missouri $3.18.

Top 10 biggest weekly increases: Ohio (+10 cents), Maryland (+8 cents), North Carolina (+7 cents), Minnesota (+6 cents), Nevada (+5 cents), Louisiana (+5 cents), New Hampshire (+5 cents) ), Arizona (+5 cents), New York (+5 cents) and Hawaii (+5 cents).

Top 10 most expensive markets: California ($4.74), Hawaii ($4.51), Oregon ($3.98), Washington ($3.98), Nevada ($3.95), Alaska ($3.85), New York ($3.75), Pennsylvania ($3.73), Washington, DC ($3.72), and Arizona ($3.71).

At the close of Friday’s official trading session, West Texas Intermediate rose $3.22 to settle at $93.10. The tension between Russia and Ukraine continues to contribute to higher oil prices. Russia is a member of OPEC+, and any sanctions based on its actions towards Ukraine could cause it to withhold crude oil from the global market. Additionally, the EIA reported that total domestic crude inventories fell by 4.7 million barrels to 410.4 million barrels. Current inventory levels are around 13% lower than at the start of February 2021, contributing to pressure on domestic crude prices. If the tension between Russia and Ukraine continues this week or if the next EIA report shows a further drop in inventories, crude prices could continue to rise.

Tips for saving money on gas:

Have your vehicle checked: Perform regular car maintenance at the intervals recommended by the vehicle manufacturer in the owner’s manual or as directed by the in-car maintenance reminder system. Did you delay regular maintenance during the pandemic because you were driving less? Now is the time to catch up.

Keep tires properly inflated: Under-inflated tires can reduce your gas mileage by about 3%, while properly inflated tires are safer and last longer. Check the pressure of all four tires every two weeks using an accurate, portable pressure gauge.

Know your octane number: Do not buy intermediate or premium gasoline unless your owner’s manual specifically recommends it. According to AAA research, Americans waste more than $2.1 billion annually on premium gasoline in vehicles designed to run on regular fuel. AAA found no benefit in using premium gas in place of regular grade fuel unless otherwise specified. At the time of the study, 75% of American drivers owned a vehicle that only required regular gasoline.

Avoid idling: Idling gets zero miles per gallon. Leaving your vehicle idling for more than 10 seconds uses more gas than turning it off and restarting it. Don’t start your car until you’re ready to go. The engine actually warms up faster once the car is running and will stay warm after stopping. Traffic lanes can cause your car to idle for long periods of time. Instead, park and enter instead.

Obey the speed limit: Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. Every 5 mph you drive over 60 mph equals paying an extra 15 cents per gallon for gas. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a steady speed and, in most cases, will save you gas.

Drive safely: Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes fuel. It can reduce your gas mileage by 33% at high speeds and 5% in the city.

Consolidate routes: Combining errands into one trip saves you time and money. Multiple short trips made from a cold start can consume twice as much fuel as a longer multi-purpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. With a little planning, you can avoid backtracking on your route and also reduce the distance you travel. Not only will you save fuel, but you will also reduce wear and tear on your car.

Minimize drag: Drag reduces fuel efficiency. Driving with the windows open, using roof- or rear-mounted racks, and carrying heavy loads increase vehicle drag. A roof rack or rack provides additional cargo space and can allow you to meet your needs in a smaller, more fuel-efficient car. However, a loaded roof rack can reduce your fuel economy by 5%. Reduce aerodynamic drag and improve your fuel economy by using a removable luggage rack and placing items inside the trunk whenever possible. Avoid carrying unnecessary items, especially heavy items. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk reduces the fuel economy of a typical car by 1-2%.

AAA blue grass

Steve R. Hansen