California gasoline prices are above $6, setting a new record for the Golden State. That is $0.31 up from last month and $1.89 higher than a year ago.
California is not alone in paying more at the pump: the national average gas prices hit $4.523 on Tuesday, also a record. Every state has an average gasoline price over $4.
Besides the pain Americans are feeling at the pump, gas prices are also a contributing factor to inflation, as it increases the cost of transporting goods. Inflation for April was 8.3%, itself near a record high.
Diesel, more commonly used in commercial transportation, is similarly up. The national average hit $5.573 per gallon on Tuesday, up $2.40 from this time last year.
The largest likely culprit is rising crude oil prices, with crude oil going above $115.50 on Tuesday. But the increase in gasoline prices cannot be attributed entirely to the price of crude oil. In 2008, crude oil prices jumped over $145 per barrel but gas prices never topped $3.78 a gallon, according to Trading Economics.
Another cause may be refining capacity still has not reached pre-pandemic levels. With COVID-19 lockdowns a thing of the past for most of the country, demand for gasoline is increasing but refineries have been unable to keep up, resulting in higher prices for gasoline.
In late March, President Biden announced a plan to reduce gas prices by releasing over a million barrels a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the next six months. That seemingly helped ease the pain at the pump, as gasoline prices dropped from March 31 to April 11, but then prices started rising and by April 15, gasoline was more expensive than it was when Biden made the announcement.
Some states have also tried to reduce gasoline prices by temporarily eliminating state taxes on gasoline, and while it reduced prices temporarily, it did not last.
When Biden first put sanctions on Russia in late February in response to their special operation in Ukraine, Biden warned of increasing energy prices but claimed they would be “short-lived” in the United States.
While it is important to note that prices were already rising before the United States imposed sanctions on Russia, the national average price of a gallon of gasoline was $3.53 on February 22. Biden announced sanctions on Russia on February 24.
On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced that they are easing restrictions on Chevron’s operations in Venezuela, potentially enabling the importation of oil from the socialist country, which has been under strict sanctions from the United States since 2006. As recently as March, the Biden administration stated that it had no plans to lift sanctions on Venezuela.