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Weekend gas prices to hit highest level in 4 years, experts say

Michael Hever of Commack fills up at the

Michael Hever of Commack fills up at the Cumberland Farms gas station in Lake Ronkonkoma on Monday. Credit: Barry Sloan

Long Island gas prices will reach their highest level in nearly four years this Memorial Day weekend and likely will continue to rise afterward, experts said.

But drivers said they aren’t putting the brakes on travel plans yet.

The factors behind the rising price of oil, and of gasoline, still have room to run, analysts said.

“There’s still room for these prices to move up and it has to do with global demand and a strengthening U.S. economy,” said Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, a Boston-based technology company that provides fuel price data.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas on Long Island was $3.09 Monday, 57 cents more than it was a year ago and the highest since Dec. 5, 2014, according to the Oil Price Information Service, a fuel information provider headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

The average cost locally will rise between 5 cents and 10 cents over the course of the next week to between $3.14 and $3.19 a gallon, prices not seen since mid- to late November 2014, said Denton Cinquegrana, chief oil analyst in the Wall, New Jersey, office of the price service.

Despite the rising prices, 36.6 million Americans across the country will travel by automobile this Memorial Day weekend — 4.7 percent more than last year’s number — and it will be the fourth consecutive year of increases in car travel, according to AAA.

Part of the reason is that motorists remember sticker shock at the pump when prices were higher in recent years, Cinquegrana said.

“You kind of have this memory and this sort of muscle memory, if you will, and it says, ‘Well, it could be a heck of a lot worse,’ ” he said.

A strong economy and rising consumer confidence are also spurring more people to hit the road, AAA said.

Nationally, the average price of regular unleaded gas was $2.92 a gallon Monday, the highest since Nov. 11, 2014, and up 57 cents from a year ago, according to the price service.

In New York State, the average price was $3.06 a gallon, compared with $2.50 a year ago, and it was the highest since Dec. 9, 2014.

New York recently joined 13 other states and Washington, D.C., as having gas prices that averaged more than $3 a gallon.

At a Cumberland Farms gas station in Lake Ronkonkoma on Monday, regular unleaded was $2.89 a gallon. It was $3.03 at a Speedway in Freeport and $3.07 at an Exxon in East Farmingdale.

A combination of factors has sent gas prices creeping up to levels not seen in years.

For one thing, consumer demand for gas remains high despite OPEC cutting crude oil production to reduce a global inventory glut on Jan. 1, 2017, Cinquegrana said.

West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark in the United States, is now priced at about $72 a barrel, the highest since 2014. It was $66 a barrel in mid-April.

Also, geopolitical tensions around the world become more significant when crude supplies get tighter.

Last week, the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on that country sent crude prices up.

After Memorial Day, “prices will probably continue to rise, [but] to what degree remains to be seen,” Cinquegrana said. But if crude oil prices start to cool, the price of gas will follow, he said.

Michael Hever, 56 and an avid traveler, said he believes most people will continue to bite the bullet at the gas pumps. The Commack resident was pumping $25 worth of gas into his Nissan Frontier pickup at the Cumberland Farms in Lake Ronkonkoma.

“No matter what the price of gas is, we’re still going to buy it,” he said.

For others, however, rising fuel costs can cut into their livelihoods.

Massapequa resident Bob Marino, 60, is a Long Island Yellow Cab driver who pays for his taxi’s gas.

Competition from ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft was already hurting his bottom line, and gas prices aren’t helping matters, he said.

To cut fuel costs, he doesn’t let the cab idle or run the air conditioning for too long, he said.

He also tries to work extra hours and transport multiple passengers together, he said. He’ll do the same to try to offset rising gas prices over the holiday weekend, he said.

“The money is good if you stay in the car and you don’t take too many breaks during the day ... if you just keep hustling,” he said.

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