By Assemblyman Timothy Eustace (D-38), Bergen/Passaic
Our federal and state economies are just now beginning on the long, slow road to recovery. Unfortunately, New Jersey continues to lag behind the rest of the nation in rebounding and rising prices at the pump and in other petroleum products, like home heating oil, are not helping our residents’ pocketbooks.
Earlier this month, the House Democratic Policy and Steering Committee heard testimony from experts regarding oil speculation and the effect it has on gas prices in America. As prices continue to rise at the pump across America, I am pleased to see that Democrats in Congress are trying to find ways to help lower gas prices and reduce this excessive burden put on ordinary Americans. The remarks made during the hearing were alarming and eye-opening on a topic most of us think little about, oil speculation.
Domestic production of oil is at its highest level in eight years and at the same time Americans are using less petroleum products than they have in the past. During the last year, due to escalating prices, more efficient vehicles, and vehicles that use no gas whatsoever, Americans used 3 percent less gasoline.
On top of that, North America had one of the mildest winters on record. While Americans were able to enjoy 70-degree temperatures in the middle of February, they were also able to keep their thermostats down and avoid using large amounts of home heating oil. This decrease in usage would lead some to think there would be a decrease in price, but this year that was not the case.
While all evidence shows that oil prices should be plummeting, oil speculators have made sure to not only prop up these prices, but make them soar to heights rarely seen, creating soaring profits for oil companies and Wall Street traders. They do this by buying crude oil futures in order to make the price of oil steadily climb regardless of supply and demand.
In March, I decided to make the switch to an all-electric car for several reasons and do not regret my choice to do so. My new 2012 Nissan Leaf was delivered to my house along with a charging station that is attached to my garage. For my daily life it is the perfect vehicle, taking me from my home in Maywood to my office in Paramus.
However, as an Assemblyman I cannot use my electric car for my trips to Trenton because the battery needs to be recharged every 100 miles or so. As a state, we need additional charging stations to entice more consumers to make this switch. I will save hundreds of dollars this year alone by not visiting a gas station. However, when I leave my home there are few places I can charge my car, giving me a limited range on where I can drive.
New Jersey should be working to encourage residents to buy more efficient cars by installing electric vehicle charging stations as an incentive to push people in that direction. Recently, a New Jersey company based in Princeton, NRG Energy, partnered with the state of California to create the infrastructure needed to put 1.5 million zero-emission cars on the road there by 2025. I applaud our New Jersey businesses for working to bring this innovative technology to California. I just wish it were doing so in New Jersey as well.
An upgrade to New Jersey’s highways to accommodate electric vehicles may be a few years away, but oil speculation can be ended immediately to help lower prices at the pump. When the Assembly returns to Trenton next month I will introduce a resolution urging Congress to act on currently proposed legislation that would end oil speculation.
It’s time we focus on the real problem of high gas prices and get these speculators out of the way of lower prices for us all. We need short-term and long-term solutions to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, bring prices down and get New Jersey to work for a better future.