Made a road trip this weekend that took me along route 90 from western NY through PA into Ohio. What I found was that gas prices were fairly consistent within each state, but dramatically differnt from one state to the next.
In New York, the price per gallon was $4.29, give or take a few cents, for 150 miles up to the PA/NY state border. As soon as I crossed into Pennsylvania, the posted prices were $3.99, and when I crossed into Ohio a half hour later, it was $3.85. This was not merely a “right over the border” scenario. Prices in PA were pretty consistent as far south as Pittsburgh, and I found the price in Ohio fairly consitent for 100 miles southwest of Cleveland.
Is this simply a matter of state taxes, or is something else at work here?
The different blends of gasoline used by different states is also a factor. In Maryland, for instance, the central part of the state must use a blend of gas that burns cleaner since that area has more air pollution. In the more rural parts of the state, however, regular gasoline can be used. That means there is usually a twenty to forty cents differnce in the price of a gallon of gas. Up in Delaware two of the three counties must use the clean gas. The most rural county does not have the same air pollution problems, but the governor has decreed that it, too, must use the clean air gas so as not to draw customers from the other counties. That means that between Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland there is a large divergence in gas prices because we in Maryland can sell less expensive gas.
My mother-in-law lives a few miles away from a Senaca reservation in NY. She regularly goes out of her way to buy gas from them, as they don’t have to pay taxes on it so it’s quite a bit cheaper. She still typically pays more than we do here in NJ, but it’s closer on the scale to our prices than the price in her home town.
To be more clear, I saw gas prices go from $3.85 east of Cleveland to $3.99 in Erie PA to $4.29 in Fredonia, NY. All of that was along I-90.
My specific itinerary was I-90 from Rochester to Erie, PA, I-79 from Erie south to Pittsburgh, I-80 from western PA to Akron area, I-71 north to cleveland, and 1-90 back through PA to Rochester. Yeah, I had a busy weekend.
My point in mentioning Pittsburgh was that the gas prices between Erie and Pittsburgh were generally the same – over a 120 mile distance – and the gas prices were generally the same over the 120 miles from The NY border to Rochester, but that they were dramatically different in a 75 mile stretch of I-90.
And I guess the only thing I can conclude is that crossing the state borders made a big difference.
A couple of months ago, I made a road trip in a diesel truck from New Orleans to Long Island. The price of diesel was pretty consistent through the last fill-up somewhere in Pennsylvania (we topped off the 50 gallon tank so we’d make it the rest of the way). Upon hitting New Jersey, the diesel prices were 30-40 cents higher, and it was the same in New York.
Not sure about New York, but I’m pretty sure that New Jersey doesn’t allow self-serve, so that might be part of the reason for New Jersey’s prices being higher.
I was noting the regular unleaded gasoline prices the whole way and the further north we went, the higher the prices were, finishing up with about a 70 cent difference between Louisiana and New York. When we left New Orleans, cheap unleaded near my house was $3.72 a gallon and in Long Island, it averaged around $4.40 (with a lot of deviation…one station near Glen Cove, NY had all 3 grades of unleaded posted at $4.09.)
Throughout the trip, with the exception of NY, all of the stations in any given state (along the Interstate) were priced within a few cents of each other. As we’d enter a new state to the north, the price would go up a dime or so.
I think we stopped for fuel in every state we passed through with the exception of Maryland, all the way up to Pennsylvania.