When will drivers get some relief at the pump?
As oil prices plunge this week, gas prices have only dropped a few cents across the Bay State as gas stations take advantage of wider margins, watchdogs tell the Herald.
Oil barrel prices have tumbled by about 30%, while the price for regular gas in Massachusetts has only declined by less than 1%. The state’s average for a regular gallon of gas is now $4.32. In Suffolk County, the average is $4.45, and on Nantucket it’s $5.27.
“Many folks are hearing oil is coming back down to below $100 a barrel, but we’re not seeing the same drop in gas prices as quickly as they went up,” said Mark Schieldrop of AAA Northeast. “Prices shoot up like a rocket, but fall back down like a feather … Not nearly as quickly as we all would like to see.”
Many retailers hold their prices higher when oil prices fall, as gas stations reap the benefits of wider margins, he added.
The national average margin was 31 cents a gallon on Feb. 23, but fell to a recent low of 7 cents on March 5, according to OPIS MarginPro data. Margins have risen steadily since then amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climbing to 60 cents last Friday.
The national margin was 61 cents Wednesday afternoon, with the seven-day rolling average at 45 cents.
“Gas stations are enjoying the wide margins while they can,” Schieldrop said.
President Biden on Wednesday called out oil and gas companies, showing a graph of how the price of oil is plummeting but gas prices are staying high.
“Oil prices are decreasing, gas prices should too,” Biden tweeted. “Last time oil was $96 a barrel, gas was $3.62 a gallon. Now it’s $4.31. Oil and gas companies shouldn’t pad their profits at the expense of hardworking Americans.”
Schieldrop said he expects gas prices will steadily head downward over the coming weeks if oil barrel prices remain below $100.
“I think retailers will nudge it down a bit every day going forward,” he added, urging drivers to reward the stations that sell the cheapest gas.
Meanwhile, GOP legislators in the State House this week pitched three bills to lower gas costs for drivers, including a proposal to freeze the state’s 24 cents per gallon gas tax until Labor Day.
The two other bills would create a program providing rebates to consumers who purchase or lease a plug-in electric vehicle, and establish a 58.5 cent per mile driven refundable credit for certain commuting needs
“We cannot stand idle while day after day people are facing the economic pain of paying for fuel to get to work, school, and medical appointments,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr. “These bills create powerful tools to assist strained household budgets not only with the cost of fuel, but also with the costs of technology to be freed from dependence on that fuel.”