DAYTONA BEACH — Fuel prices have surged to record highs on an almost daily basis since the middle of last week, with the average price for regular gasoline now at $4.495 a gallon in the Volusia-Flagler area.
Statewide, the average price of regular gas now stands at $4.497 a gallon, while the national average is at $4.483 a gallon, according to AAA Auto Club.
"They're certainly high, but this is just with you have to deal with at this particular time," said Daytona Beach resident Paul DuBois of the rising gas prices as he refueled his car at the RaceTrac gas station on the corner of Williamson Boulevard and Beville Road. "They'll come back down. I'm not too worried about it."
Had it not been for the global COVID-19 pandemic, gas prices on average would "probably be north of $5 per gallon now with inflation," wrote Patrick DeHaan, the Chicago-based head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.com, in a tweet on Sunday.
"Prices later this week could be closer to $5 per gallon than $4, as demand continues to edge higher and inventories of both gasoline and diesel continue to decline, temperatures warm and motorists get back outside and we near the Memorial Day weekend," wrote DeHaan on his blog on Monday morning.
The three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend typically marks the start of the summer travel season in the United States, which in normal years causes gas prices to climb because of increased consumer demand.
But this is no normal year. Fuel prices globally began to rise when Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. That invasion, which still shows no signs of ending anytime soon, resulted in a U.S. ban on oil and petroleum imports from Russia, the world's third-largest producer.
Wholesale crude oil prices, which is a key factor in setting retail gasoline and diesel prices, are determined by international auctions based on global supply and demand, not individual nations.
Offsetting the economic effects of the ban on Russian imports by the U.S. and other nations has been a decrease in consumer demand in China because of government-mandated shutdowns stemming from a new surge in COVID cases.
DeHaan in his blog on Monday wrote that increases in retail gas prices in the U.S. "may start to slow in the days ahead as pump prices catch up to oil, (but) there isn't much reason to be optimistic that we'll see a plunge anytime soon."
DuBois is a former high school teacher who moved to Daytona Beach from Connecticut after he retired several years ago. As high as gas prices have gotten today, he said it doesn't compare with the gas crisis back in the 1970s.
"In the '70s, you couldn't get gasoline. You went to a station and could only get five gallons at a time. Many stations didn't even have gas. Now we do have it, but we have to pay the price," he said. "Even though it's still high, I can still afford it."
LOOKING BACK: Gas tops $4 a gallon in Daytona Beach
"Drivers are dealing with unprecedented pain at the pump and things could get worse before they get better," wrote Mark Jenkins, a Tampa-based spokesman for AAA, in his weekly report on Monday. "We saw more big gains in the gasoline futures market late last week, which could trickle down to yet another 10 to 20 cent jump at the pump in the near future."
Jenkins wrote that gas prices are rising nationally as well as in Florida because "global fuel supplies are tight; keeping upward pressure on oil prices (which account for more than half the price of gasoline)."
In the Daytona Beach area as well as for Florida as a whole, one possible silver lining could be that the increase in average gas prices slowed considerably on Monday, rising only 3/10ths of a cent per gallon both locally as well as statewide, compared with Sunday.
That is a sharp contrast from late last week when the average price of gas was jumping several cents per gallon each day. Last Thursday, for example, the average price in Daytona Beach rose 11 cents overnight to a then-new record high of $4.412 a gallon, according to AAA. On Friday, the average price rose another 6 cents to $4.474 a gallon.
AAA reports average gas prices for metro areas throughout the country based on its comprehensive survey of the final credit card purchases for fuel of the day at all gas stations.
And there may be "light at the end of the tunnel," according to Jenkins. "The International Energy Agency forecasts that sky-high fuel prices will cause U.S. oil production to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022. ... A return to previously record-high production levels could cool the fuel market and lead to lower prices."
Jenkins wrote that the state average price for gas "is not expected to exceed $5 a gallon."
On the other hand, "Unfortunately, $4 gasoline is likely to be that unwelcome passenger on most Florida summer road trips," he wrote. "The fuel market is extremely unstable and things are changing by the day. Either way, drivers should expect gas prices to keep fluctuating throughout the summer and potentially the rest of the year."
The latest numbers
Average price for a gallon of regular gasoline:
Week Ago: $4.153
Month Ago: $3.941
Year Ago: $2.867
Highest Recorded Average Price: $4.495 (May 16, 2022)
Previous Record Average Price (prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine): $4.117 (July 17, 2008)
Week Ago: $4.207
Month Ago: $4.004
Year Ago: $2.893
Highest Recorded Average Price: $4.497 (May 16, 2022)
Previous Record Average Price (prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine): $4.079 (July 16, 2008)
SOURCE: AAA Auto Club
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Gas prices hits new record high $4.49 a gallon in Daytona Beach