West Virginians are feeling the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the pump as gas prices surge 54 cents in the Mountain State the past week to $3.89 a gallon — the fourth largest average increase by state in the nation week-over-week, AAA West Virginia Manager Lori Weaver Hawkins reported Monday.
Increasing oil prices was the main culprit in the higher prices, she reported.
Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine forced the price of crude oil higher, leading to an average US price of $4.07 per gallon for regular unleaded fuel on Monday, the highest national average since July 2008.
AAA reported that the national average is 46 cents higher than last week, 60 cents more than last month and $1.30 more than a year ago.
West Virginia’s gas price average of $3.89 is 68 cents more than a month ago and $1.16 more than a year ago at this time, Hawkins reported.
Local residents are feeling the crunch.
Tammy McKinney said that she cannot afford to fill up her tank.
“(I’m) limiting trips to all but the very essential,” she said. “No frivolous running around.”
Abby Faughnan of Beckley, the mother of a newborn, said that she and her partner have traded cars to save money at the pumps.
“My partner works in Lewisburg, and I’m staying home with our newborn, so we switched vehicles because mine is better on gas,” Faughnan reported. “We’ll probably end up having to buy her a smaller hybrid to drive for the next 3 years or so.”
She said the cost to fill up her hybrid was once around $30 and is now in the low $40s, while her partner’s car costs up to $60 to fill, from around $40, previously.
Alderson attorney Ryan Keesee said he and his wife have parked their truck.
“We’re driving the (Toyota) Prius, exclusively, unless absolutely necessary,” he added.
Maria Jamison of Fayette County, a travel nurse, said the gas prices are impacting her job.
“I’m on assignment in Franklin, West Virginia, and the price of gas has gone up to $3.99,” she said. “I guess I will be looking for assignments close to home for awhile.”
Beckley real estate agent Randy Hunt said he’s worried for senior citizens and others.
“Most of us will pay what we have to, but I have real concerns for those who are living on small fixed incomes who are also paying higher prices for groceries and other consumables,” Hunt said. “They are living paycheck to paycheck and don’t have the means to dig deeper.
“I’m really concerned about those who just can’t afford it.”
Anne Miller of Beckley, a senior citizen, said she only drives when she has to go somewhere.
“Being on a fixed income is getting harder, daily,” she said, adding that she is buying only “absolutely necessary groceries” and “turning my heat down, taking care with water usage.
“Forget going out to eat,” said Miller.
Brenda Criss, the long-time manager of an Oak Hill restaurant, said her partner is retired and that she is not currently working.
“We go out twice a week to the store and therapy and use my car,” said Criss, adding that her car gets 32 mpg. “But he fishes once a week.
“The truck is 9-11 mpg, so we use maybe $25 a week,” she estimated. “I’m not stressing till vacation.”
National Park Service Officer Shawn Bodkin of Oak Hill said people will just pay the prices.
“Nothing you can do except pay for it, or don’t drive,” he said. “For a lot of people, it will come down to buying gas or paying a bill or putting food on the table.”
Kenny Bryant, a local real estate broker, suggested that Americans vote for candidates who promote energy independence.
Bobby Palmer of Bradley Volunteer Fire Department said he is happy he drives a state vehicle and that his wife lives only two miles from work, while Amy Jones of Oak Hill said she is also happy that she lives “two minutes driving time” from her job .
Amber Willoughby of Oak Hill said she bought two hybrid cars to offset gas prices, and Latisha Plumley of Raleigh County said she has limited her trips — and has found that she does not mind staying in more.
Jeff Campbell, former House delegate from Lewisburg, tries to even out the recent price hikes by purchasing gas daily.
“When prices jumped 40 cents in 48 hours in Lewisburg last week, I started filling my tank every day before I go home,” he said, “whether I need two gallons or 12.”
A number of residents suggested the price at the pumps is a sacrifice Americans are making for Ukraine.
“Freedom isn’t free,” said Fayetteville businessman Maura Kistler.
Oak Hill police officer Mason Hines pointed out that housing, health care, and education costs have risen more than gas.
“Compared to the price the people of Ukraine are paying, I can’t complain,” said Hines.
Krystal Smith Harrah, a Dothan mother of two toddlers, said that she copes with higher prices by praying.
“Lots and lots of praying. For everyone, not just the US. Ukraine. Russia, praying this doesn’t go further,” said Harrah. “Sure, nobody enjoys high gas prices. But my family is safe, my children are fed, and I don’t have to put my kids in the bathtub with a mattress over them to sleep, just hope that it would be enough protection if my home were to be hit. It’s so much deeper than gas prices.”
The average price for a gallon of unleaded in Ohio on Monday was at $3.83, while Kentucky ($3.81), Virginia ($3.89), Pennsylvania ($4.24), and Maryland ($4.10) also showed increases.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that the demand for gasoline rose slightly from last week, when it was 8.66 million barrels, to 8.74 million barrels per day by Monday.
Meanwhile, total domestic gasoline stocks decreased by 500,000 barrels to 246 million barrels last week.
The increase in gas demand, coupled with the reduction in total supply, also played a role in the high prices Americans saw at the pumps.
AAA predicted that the upward trend will likely continue, Hawkins said, even as countries take steps to release crude oil in order to offset the fallout caused by Putin’s hostility.
“Last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced a coordinated release of crude oil from its 31 member countries’ strategic reserves, including the US, Germany, Canada, South Korea, and Mexico, to help counter the impact of rising crude prices ,” Hawkins reported in a release on Monday.
IEA member states agreed to release a total of 61.7 million barrels from their strategic reserves to reassure those markets that had been harmed by the Russian invasion.
This amount—half of which is expected to come from the US—is the largest coordinated release since IEA was founded in 1974, Hawkins said, but it is still small when compared to the amount that Russia provides daily to countries around the world.
According to the IEA, Russia exports approximately 5 million barrels per day of crude oil, representing about 12 percent of its global trade.