National average gas prices are currently $3.52 per gallon, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, reflecting a rapid increase from a $3.33 per gallon reading earlier this month and a $3.42 per gallon reading at the same time last year. AAA said in an analysis that the increasing costs reflect moderating temperatures and changes in the oil market.
“The recent rising temperatures led to rising pump prices,” AAA spokesman Andrew Gross remarked. “And with the cost of oil hitting $80 a barrel, there is a lot of upward pressure on gas prices at the moment.”
West Texas Intermediate, the American benchmark for crude oil, was nearly $73.00 per barrel toward the beginning of the month; the metric surpassed $80.00 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent Crude, the European benchmark, increased from $77.00 per barrel to more than $86.00 per barrel over the same time horizon.
“Crude prices rose at the end of last week due to increased market optimism that crude demand may be more robust than expected this year,” the AAA report said. “In particular, the market believes that the re-opening of China’s economy, despite high coronavirus infection rates, will help to bolster global crude demand, while supporting elevated prices. For this week, crude prices could continue to climb if ongoing market optimism persists.”
The nation’s most expensive markets for gas prices are currently Hawaii and California, where residents are contending with prices of $4.94 per gallon and $4.44 per gallon, respectively. Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Oregon, and Pennsylvania are also among the most expensive markets; states witnessing the fastest gas price increases over the past week are Colorado and Delaware, with $0.31 and $0.28 price hikes, respectively.
The current national average of $3.52 per gallon marks a 48% increase since the start of the Biden administration. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre nevertheless claimed on Monday that “House Republicans are using their narrow majority to force the American people to pay higher gas prices, just as big oil companies are amassing record profits.”
White House officials have also contended that recent decreases in gas prices from their record highs above $5.00 per gallon are attributable to policies advanced by President Joe Biden. “Every month, the typical two-driver family saves about $120 at the pump compared to where we were in mid-June,” Jean-Pierre said in October. “Every day, Americans save about $420 million at the pump compared to mid-June.”
Fuel analytics company GasBuddy recently marked average gas prices at $3.96 per gallon for 2022, far surpassing the $3.02 per gallon average charted in 2021 and the $2.17 per gallon average charted in 2020. Even as GasBuddy forecasts that prices will drop to a national average of $3.49 per gallon in 2023 after approaching $4.00 per gallon by summertime, the reading would still rank among the highest years for gas prices in more than a decade.
Energy price trends have contributed to overall inflationary pressures which have produced economic tumult over the past two years. Some 55% of Americans believe rising price levels have produced hardships for their households, according to a survey conducted by Gallup in November, even as 13% believe elevated prices are causing severe hardships.