You haven't seen gas prices like this in a while.

Just in time for your Fourth of July road trip, New Jersey's average price for a gallon of regular is around $3.12.

That's about a dollar higher than where it was a year ago, when the COVID-19 crisis was still relatively new.

It's the outright highest price level in the Garden State since the fall of 2014.

"The equation has changed — back when we had slightly lower prices in 2018 and 2019, U.S. oil production was higher," said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. "But as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in which demand plummeted ... the oil industry curbed production."

So now that COVID metrics are far better than where they were just a couple months ago, as more folks roll up their sleeves for a vaccine, demand for gasoline is picking up significantly — and that increased demand is greatly exceeding production increases.

According to AAA, 1.27 million New Jersey residents are expected to travel between Thursday and Monday for the Independence Day holiday weekend. Oil markets don't respond to bumps in demand related to holidays, but instead rely on long-term consumer patterns.

"I think prices may continue to drift higher for a couple more weeks," DeHaan said.

Prices are expected to peak, DeHaan said, around late July or early August. Motorists may see some relief at the pump in the middle of August or late August, as long as there are no issues caused by hurricanes.

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