Gas prices could dip to lowest point since 2002 as people shelter at home during COVID-19 pandemic

The decline in travel as essential businesses shut down in the tri-state area during the COVID-19 pandemic has helped lead to a dramatic drop in gasoline prices.

A drive through Riverhead and Riverside will turn up several gas stations with prices less than $2 per gallon.

The three 76 gas stations on Flanders Road in Riverhead are all selling gas at $1.99 per gallon, as is the Mobil station on East Main Street, which was charging $2.09 per gallon less than a week earlier.

On Route 58, the Mobil station was at $1.89, while the 7-Eleven toward the west end of Route 58 was at $1.95.

Patrick DeHaan, an oil and refined products analyst for GasBuddy, a website and cell phone app that compares gas prices throughout the nation, said prices have been declining all month “as the coronavirus destroys oil demand globally.”

Oil prices could reach their lowest point in 18 years, he said in an update Monday for GasBuddy.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a collapse in prices, even including the Great Recession,” he said. “What we’re witnessing is easily going to go down as the great collapse in oil demand, and for motorists hurrying to fill up today, they’re wasting their money as prices will continue to drop in the days ahead.”

Prices, however, haven’t had the same dip yet farther east of Riverhead. The prices on Monday listed for three gas stations in Mattituck ranged from $2.33 to $2.37.

Robert Sinclair Jr., the manager of media relations for AAA in New York and New Jersey, said the drop in prices is not necessarily surprising.

“But that a gas station somewhere in New York, and especially Long Island, is below $2 per gallon — that is surprising,” he said. “Gasoline tends to be more expensive in our region because everything is more expensive.”

Gasoline has to be trucked to Long Island, which normally drives up prices, he said.

The New York State average is $2.40 per gallon, as of Monday, Mr. Sinclair said. A week earlier, it was at $2.48 per gallon and a month ago, it was $2.60 per gallon, according to the AAA Gas Prices website, he said. 

Contributing factors in the price drop include the drop in demand, with everyone staying home, as well as the cutbacks in trade, travel and manufacturing, all as a result of the coronavirus, Mr. Sinclair said.

“Gasoline prices are definitely cheaper as a result of all this,” he said.

But aside from that, the battle between Russia and Saudi Arabia to outproduce one another has also lowered gas prices, he said.

“Russia said it would produce as much crude oil as it can, seemingly just to spite OPEC, and Saudi Arabia said it would produce even more crude oil,” Mr. Sinclair said. “So they’re producing crude oil like crazy at a time when we don’t need it.”

The closing price for crude oil on Feb. 20 was $53.78 per barrel, and on Feb. 22, it was $21.56 per barrel, he said.

Overall, the New York State average gas price is $2.40 as of Monday, according to AAA.

It will still have a long way to go to be the lowest.

Oklahoma has the cheapest statewide average in the county, at $1.71 per gallon, Mr. Sinclair said.