TRENTON – Soaring gas prices are up more in New Jersey this month than they are nationwide, despite the more than 8-cent drop in the state’s gas tax.

According to data from AAA, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in New Jersey jumped 20.8 cents in three weeks, from $3.226 on Sept. 30 to $3.434 as of Friday. The national average in that time was up 18.9 cents to $3.378.

“The situation, unfortunately, is not good,” said Tracy Noble, public relations manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Certainly starting to hit folks in their pockets.”

“Crude oil is driving the price of gas. That’s what’s making the surge. Yesterday, the price of crude oil closed at $83.87 per barrel. Those are numbers we haven’t seen since 2014,” Noble said on Thursday. “Today it went down a little bit to close about $82.50 per barrel. So, less than yesterday, which is good news. But that’s not going to cause any decrease at the pump.”

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New Jersey’s gas tax was reduced by 8.3 cents per gallon on Oct. 1. That delayed the initial impact of rising crude oil prices in the state, with the cost per gallon between Sept. 30 and Oct. 8 up 7.1 cents nationally but only 3.3 cents in the state.

For one day, on Oct. 8, the average price in New Jersey was narrowly less than the national average, a rarity.

Price increases mostly tracked each other for the second week of October, up by 4.6 cents nationally and 5.4 cents in New Jersey. But over the last week, the price has jumped 12.1 cents a gallon in New Jersey compared with 7.2 cents nationally.

Theoretically, if not for the 8.3-cent tax cut, the increase this month would be a dime per gallon more in New Jersey than nationally.

“Unfortunately the gas tax, where we expecting to see relief with that 8-cent decrease, it just came at a time when the price of crude oil starting that upward trend and has remained so,” Noble said.

“We also need to keep in mind this is typically the time of year we see prices decrease anyway because of the switchover to the winter-blend fuels,” she said. “And that did not happen this year simply because of the price of crude oil.”

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Noble doesn’t expect the trend to reverse itself soon.

“Now as we’re coming into the winter months and people are starting to think about fuel oil, that is going to keep that elevated price of crude oil,” Noble said. “So, there’s no relief in the short term.”

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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