With vaccine rollouts continuing to ramp up across the United States, the coronavirus pandemic indeed could be on its last legs.
The heightened optimism and gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions are driving millions of Americans to travel more—both in the air on the roads. However, be aware that if you’re a car owner and already have family road trips planned for this summer, you might be in for quite a shock as gas prices might reach levels many Americans have never seen before.
Currently, the national average for gas prices is already sitting at $2.87 per gallon, up about 34 cents from last month’s average. According to AAA motor club, a recent report shows that average prices have surged double digits in two-thirds of the country. For example, in Utah, gas is up 25 cents per gallon, while Idaho and Missouri have witnessed 17-cent increases.
At this rate, gas prices could reach the much-feared $4 a gallon territory by this summer and perhaps even $5 in some states.
“A couple months ago, the biggest driving factor that we saw affecting gas prices were those increasing crude oil prices. Recently, we’ve seen more of a supply and demand factor take over into really what’s pushing our gas prices higher,” Megan Cooper, a spokesperson for AAA, told the Tennessee station WJHL.
The arctic freeze that pummeled much of the United States last month, resulting in a shutdown in refineries, was also to blame.
“Typically, when we receive those weather threats to the Gulf Coast region, they come in the form of hurricanes, so this was a little bit odd,” she said. “The reaction in the market was very similar to what we would see if a hurricane were to threaten the Gulf Coast.”
Meanwhile, it appears that $5-per-gallon gas has already been seen in downtown Los Angeles. Two social media posts circulating widely earlier in the week showed a Chevron station selling gas at $5.55 and $5.47 per gallon.
The gas prices in the images appear to be legitimate, but they didn’t accurately reflect the actual state of gas prices in the city or state, the Associated Press said.
According to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, a website that tracks gasoline prices across the country, the average gas price in Los Angeles was $3.89 per gallon as of Monday, and California’s average was $3.85 per gallon.
He added that particular Chevron station generally has inflated gasoline prices.
“For comparison, a nearby competitor, Valero, at 500 S. Alameda St., has averaged a price of $3.26 per gallon over the same time frame, peaking at $3.82 in 2018 and $4.22 in 2019,” De Haan told the AP.
“This highlights the importance of motorists shopping around as plenty of lower-priced stations are nearby this station.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.