Emerging from his car just moments after President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian oil imports Tuesday, Paul Pedulla started pumping gas. Seeing a microphone inching closer to his face, he anticipated the question without it being asked.
“Yes, I'm very happy to see that we're banning Russian oil and I am very happy to pay more at the pump because I think it will help the situation,” Pedulla said.
Asked how much he pays on average to fill up his late-model sedan, he pointed to the newly adjusted rate above the pump: $4.99 a gallon for premium, a price likely to go up in the coming days as the Russia oil ban goes into full effect.
“As long as it helps,” said Pedulla. “We need to put the screws on Putin.”
Not everyone out on Tuesday was united. While everyone GBH News spoke to vehemently opposed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began less than two weeks ago, sanctions that would hit their pockets were slightly less popular.
“I drive every day, all day, so I spend at least every two days 60 to 70 dollars of gas,” said Wanderson Olivera, a salesman. “This truck, it's a 2021. It's already 32,000 miles on it. So that will hit me pretty good.”
Olivera, who regularly fills up at the Shell station straddling Cambridge and Somerville, is feeling the pain of higher gas prices. He said he dreaded yet another bump in gas prices resulting from U.S. sanctions, but thought that Russia should be punished for its aggression.
“No, I'm not OK with [higher gas prices], but I don't think we have a choice,” he said. “Free Ukraine! They deserve the best because we all know they're good people. And President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a tough guy and I admire him a lot.”
But opinion at this station at the intersection of Prospect Street and Hampshire Street was not unified. Brian, who said he did not want his last name used, fearing “a new Red Scare,” opposes sanctions on Russia.
“I think that the Russian people shouldn't suffer for Vladimir Putin's mistakes,” said Brian — and he added, neither should he. “I want them to keep gas prices lower, and again, I don't think they should keep tightening the noose on the Russian people themselves. They're innocent in this, largely.”
The impact of halting Russian oil imports to the United States will be felt immediately by gas station owners and subsidiaries, said Paul Politis, owner of the full-service station John & Nick’s in Cambridge.
His station’s current gas prices are $4.39, in line with the $4.32 average in Suffolk County. Politis had just received a major delivery.
“I just bought gas, $4.11 a gallon. I'm a full station. So what am I making? Twenty-eight cents a gallon,” Politis said. “As gas increases, essentially, if you don't raise the gas prices, what happens is you'll fall short next time around buying fuel. So, it's a very, very tough situation that business owners — gas station owners — are put in in terms of buying fuel and actually selling it to the public.”
He said the speed at which gas prices are shooting up could severely impact his bottom line. But Politis said in the interest of defeating “Russian aggression,” he is not at all torn about the sacrifice that might result. He gives Biden credit for halting the importation of Russian oil.
“I totally, totally support that,” Politis said. “I feel that there is absolutely no excuse for a country to invade another sovereign country. And when that's the issue, then yes, we need to do as much as we can to stop production from Russia, and not support their battle in terms of buying their oil.”