MORRISTOWN — Gasoline prices are rising everywhere, but in some spots locally they are simply soaring.
According to AAA, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Ohio was $4.96 on Tuesday, rising more than a dime above the average $4.83 one Monday. Locally, AAA reported an average price of $4.99 per gallon in Belmont County on Tuesday, with Steubenville-Weirton area prices averaging $4.94.
In the Morristown area, though, prices reached $5.09 per gallon on Tuesday with diesel fuel costing $5.99 a gallon. Across the Buckeye State, average prices topped $5 per gallon Tuesday in the Columbus, Lima and Mansfield metropolitan areas.
The average price per gallon in Ohio one year ago was $2.926.
The situation is similar in West Virginia, where prices are highest in the Northern Panhandle, according to AAA.
The average cost Monday of regular unleaded in the Mountain State was $4.633, according to AAA. That price represents a leap from the same time last week ($4.463 per gallon), last month ($4.115 per gallon) and last year ($2.997). Wheeling and the surrounding area are seeing prices at the pump that are higher than the state average. According to AAA, the average price for regular unleaded in the Wheeling area is an all-time high of $4.758 per gallon. It was $4.481 this time last week, $4.073 this time last month and $2.942 this time last year.
Wheeling’s is the second-highest average in the state. The top of the list belongs to Weirton, which averaged a record $4.769 per gallon for regular unleaded Monday. Weirton’s average was $4.485 a week ago, $4.103 a month ago and $2.952 a year ago.
The main culprit? According to Jim Garrity, public and legislative affairs manager for AAA East Central, it’s the continued rise in crude oil prices. As of Monday afternoon, Brent crude was near $120 per barrel.
“Crude oil is where everyone’s eyes are,” Garrity said. “Of course, we’re seeing this off the back of Memorial Day weekend, which was not historic but certainly substantial travel. We’re seeing the effects of that, but the big factor is crude oil prices. They continue to go up.
“Until you see crude oil prices cool off,” he continued, “you shouldn’t expect to see gas prices follow suit.”
In fact, AAA said Monday that gas prices are trending toward a height never seen in American history — a $5-per-gallon national average. Eleven places already had passed that mark: Alaska, Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Demand has outpaced a tight global gasoline supply, and that has helped push prices even higher.
“People are still fueling up, despite these high prices,” said Andrew Gross, AAA spokesman. “At some point, drivers may change their daily driving habits or lifestyle due to these high prices, but we are not there yet.”
Indeed, pumps at the Pilot fuel station just off Interstate 70 exit 208 were packed with passenger vehicles, while commercial vehicles lined up along 149 waiting their turn to enter the fueling complex.
If there is even a hint of solace, it would be in the fact that, adjusted for inflation, gas cost more at its peak in 2008 than it does now. Garrity said that the highest national average that year was $4.14 per gallon. That would be $5.47 in 2022 dollars.
“That doesn’t make it any easier for consumers,” Garrity said. “The pain is certainly real.”
AAA reminds motorists of numerous tips to conserve gas — consolidating errand trips, driving the speed limit, not idling for long periods of time and minimizing air conditioning use among them. Also, drivers will need to be prepared for rising prices and factor those increases into their personal budgets.
“Budgeting is going to be an absolute necessity,” he said.
Another way to stay prepared is to make sure motorists don’t drive perilously close to an empty tank. Garrity said there was an increase in March of calls to AAA from motorist who ran out of gas. With gas prices still climbing, the possibility of those calls increasing is a significant one.
“Driving close to E can be very dangerous and can be expensive,” he said, “more expensive than the cost of a tank of gasoline in some cases.”
Derek Redd and Jennifer Compston-Strough contributed to this report.