It's an inauspicious record: For the first time, gas prices in all 50 U.S. states have hit an average of at least $4 per gallon, according to data from AAA, formerly the American Automobile Association.
It's happening as global crude oil prices trade near $110 a barrel, and, while that price is below the recent highs seen in March, the elevated national average gas price could signal higher highs ahead of the summer travel season. AAA said as refiners switch to the more expensive "summer blend" of gasoline, the seasonal formulation can add up to $0.10 per gallon depending on location.
"The high cost of oil, the key ingredient in gasoline, is driving these high pump prices for consumers," said Andrew Gross, AAA spokesperson, in a statement. "Even the annual seasonal demand dip for gasoline during the lull between spring break and Memorial Day, which would normally help lower prices, is having no effect this year."
Separate data measured Wednesday by the gas price tracking group GasBuddy.com shows one state, Oklahoma, was still one cent below the $4 average Wednesday. Its data also showed the average price in California had climbed above $6 for the first time.
"Liquid fuels have turned into liquid gold, with prices for gasoline and diesel spiraling out of control with little power to harness them as the imbalance between supply and demand globally continues to widen with each passing day," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, in a release. "Russia’s oil increasingly remains out of the market, crimping supply while demand rebounds ahead of the summer driving season.”
And it's not just the U.S. Gas prices in Canada also hit an all-time high this week, reaching $2 per litre for the first time, GasBuddy said.
The Biden administration has sought to address the price spikes by tapping the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve, as well as waiving restrictions on selling higher ethanol E15 gas.
But with domestic gasoline inventories trending lower than one year ago, analysts say the impact from those measures may be too little to counter broader market forces.
"There’s little, if any, good news about fuel prices heading into summer, and the problem could become worse should we see an above-average hurricane season, which could knock out refinery capacity at a time we badly need it as refined product inventories continue to plummet," De Haan said.