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LI gas prices highest in almost 3 years - and heading higher, experts say

Terry Gallagher of Amityville fills his truck with

Terry Gallagher of Amityville fills his truck with diesel at QuickChek in Copiague Monday. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Long Islanders are forking over the highest prices for gasoline that they’ve paid in nearly three years, and they can expect to be paying more — soon.

The average price for a gallon of regular gas was $2.97 on Monday, 42 cents more than a year ago and the highest since mid-July 2015, according to AAA.

Nationwide, gas prices recently have hit their highest levels since November 2014. As of Monday, the national average was $2.81 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas, compared with $2.38 a year ago, AAA said.

“Long Island looks as though it is headed for $2.95 to $3.10 a gallon, and the $3 gallon number could be topped by Cinco de Mayo,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis in the Wall, New Jersey, office of the Oil Price Information Service.

At a Cumberland Farms in Plainview on Monday, regular unleaded gas was $2.94 a gallon. The price was $2.89 at a Speedway in East Farmingdale and $2.85 at the QuickChek in Copiague.

Terry Gallagher, who owns an Amityville-based sewer and water business, expects to pass on his company’s increased gas and diesel costs to his customers, many of whom are still hiring him to do work related to damage their homes sustained from superstorm Sandy in 2012, he said Monday at the QuickChek.

“It’s a double whammy. . . . It’s a hardship for people,” said Gallagher, after pumping $3.11-per-gallon diesel into the Chevy Silverado pickup truck he drives to work sites. He paid $75 for 24 gallons of diesel, which would have been more but the pump automatically cuts off at that amount, he said.

There are multiple reasons for the fuel price hikes nationwide, including crude oil being $20 more per barrel compared with the price a year ago, said Robert Sinclair Jr., spokesman in AAA’s Garden City office.

The price of U.S. crude oil last week hit $68.64, the highest since December 2014. The price of benchmark U.S. crude settled at $68.10 Monday.

Also, demand for gas is high — hitting 414 million gallons per day nationwide in the week that ended April 20, which was a record for the month of April and a level usually seen during the peak of the summer driving season, Sinclair said.

In addition, the Clean Air Act of 1990 mandates that only summer-blend gas, which produces less evaporative emissions during the summer, be sold between March 15 and Sept. 15.

“It’s much more expensive to refine, but especially to distribute . . . which adds to the cost,” Sinclair said.

New York state drivers also contend with more gas taxes, which, at 75 cents per gallon, are the third-highest after California and Pennsylvania. Still, some states are feeling the pinch more.

As of Monday, California had the highest average gas price for unleaded, $3.60 per gallon, followed by Hawaii, at $3.23, while the biggest weekly increase in cost was in Michigan, which saw a 9 cent spike, followed by the 8 cent rise in Delaware, according to Gas Buddy, a Boston-based technology company that provides fuel price data.

For people who spend a lot of time behind the wheel, the rising numbers at the pump are causing sticker shock.

Lindenhurst resident Sue Byrne, 57, is a speech pathologist — and independent contractor — who drives her own vehicle to her clients’ schools and homes to provide services, she said. On Monday, she opted not to buy gas at a Speedway because the station was out of regular unleaded and the premium fuel was too expensive, she said.

Still, at this point, her only immediate option for cutting fuel costs is to drive her Volvo more than the Jeep Grand Cherokee she was fueling up at the QuickChek, she said.

“It’s pretty much business as usual but I just noticed how expensive it is,” she said while putting $51.40 worth of gas into the Jeep.

For some drivers, fuel cost increases are just par for the course in vehicle ownership, they said.

As a driver for ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber, Wheatley Heights resident Lavar A. Mason, 39, is not flinching at gas prices, he said while pumping unleaded fuel into a Honda Accord on Monday.

“Everything fluctuates based on the seasons,” he said.

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