Gas station attendant pumps gas into a vehicle in Smithtown.

Gas station attendant pumps gas into a vehicle in Smithtown. Credit: Steve Pfost

Daily Point

How low can the price of gas go on Long Island?

Thanks to a tanking world economy and an oddity in how the oil market works, the price of crude oil dropped below zero in the United States for the first time in recorded history. 

Way below zero.

At 4 p.m., in fact, anybody willing to take delivery of a 42-gallon barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil in May could get paid $32.75 for taking it off the energy industry’s hands and storing it.

The problem is one of overproduction, underutilization and limited storage. So, The Point wondered: How low could gas prices on Long Island could get, based on normal market factors, if oil were free?

Not as cheap as we might wish.

According to the American Automobile Association, the average gas price in Suffolk County is currently $2.12 per gallon. In Nassau, it’s $2.15. But the cost of the oil, even before it plunged $55 a barrel Monday, was less than half that total.

Long Islanders pay 18.3 cents per gallon in federal gas taxes and 45.96 cents a gallon in state gas taxes. We also pay, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, about 35 cents a gallon for distribution and marketing and 36 cents a gallon for refining oil into gasoline and putting a little profit into the hands of the gas station owners.

That totals about $1.35 a gallon before oil gets paid for, and it does not include the state and county sales tax on gasoline, which totals 8.25%. 

So if oil were free, and markets were simple, gas on Long Island would still cost about $1.46 a gallon.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Local hero speaks about battle with the coronavirus

Warren Sheprow is a New York Army National Guard physician assistant caring for military personnel who run testing sites and humanitarian missions in COVID-19 New York. He’s also the son of former Port Jefferson Village mayor Harold J. Sheprow. 

Maj. Sheprow is the subject of Episode 12 of Newsday Opinion’s “Life Under Coronavirus” podcast, where he talks about his assignment battling the pandemic at the Lexington Avenue Armory in Manhattan, a different challenge from previous missions like keeping soldiers healthy in a remote, forward-operating base in Iraq. 

Sheprow has left Port Jefferson for Red Hook but still comes back to visit and says he’s a Long Islander still: “Once you’re in Port Jeff, you become a Long Islander again instantly.” 

Listen here.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Atlas shrugged

Credit: Mark Wilson

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Quick Points

  • COVID-19 is arguably now the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more people daily than heart disease and cancer. What better time to start reopening the country?
  • Handfuls of protesters in some cities are clamoring for governors to reopen their states and the country. More than 80% of the country’s registered voters support a nationwide stay-at-home order. Majority rules, right?
  • A trio of far-right, pro-gun activists are behind some Facebook pages calling for the quarantine protests. Because nothing goes together quite like guns and a killer virus.
  • Trump administration officials oppose giving state governments more money to cope with COVID-19, thinking that the funding could make many states less likely to reopen soon. Usually, you use money as a carrot to force actions that make people safer, not less safe.
  • More than a dozen U.S. researchers were working at the World Health Organization when the novel coronavirus was discovered in China, and they provided real-time information to the Trump administration about its emergence and spread, belying President Donald Trump’s claim that the WHO did not communicate the extent ot the threat. You knew that was coming, right?
  • Some 20% to 40% of coronavirus patients in intensive care units suffer kidney failure, leading to shortages of dialysis machines and the fluids they require. But the fluids are not on the FDA’s watch list of potential shortages. Don’t be surprised. This is the FDA, after all, the same agency that let nearly 100 brands of antibody tests that had not been vetted be sold to hospitals, and that now admits that some of the kits might be inaccurate or fraudulent.
  • Asked about the wisdom of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis allowing municipalities to reopen beaches even as Florida’s death count from COVID-19 continues to rise, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said she would not second-guess the decision. Please, Dr. Birx, do second-guess.
  • A gunman in Nova Scotia, Canada, killed at least 16 people in a horrifying shooting rampage last weekend, generating perhaps the most subdued worldwide reaction to a mass murder in recent history. Another victim of the coronavirus crisis.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie