Average gas prices pass $4 per gallon in Florida, climbing across the US

Author: AP
Published: Updated:
High gas price at a Southwest Florida gas station on March 7, 2022. (Credit: WINK News)

Gasoline prices are pushing even farther above $4 a gallon, the highest price that American motorists have faced since July 2008, as calls grow to ban imports of Russian oil.

Prices at the pump were rising long before Russia invaded Ukraine and have spiraled faster since the start of the war. The U.S. national average for a gallon of gasoline has soared 45 cents a gallon in the past week and topped $4.06 on Monday, according to auto club AAA.

Drivers in parts of Southwest Florida are lucky to find gas at $3.99 per gallon. Regular gas is well over $4 at several gas stations. $4.19 and $4.25 per gallon of regular gas is a shock at the tank. “It’s a lot of money, I guess. Before it used to be $30, now it’s $41.60,” said Lee County resident Rosa Vega.

Filling up the tank is causing some families to cut back on necessities like food and groceries. “Food. Food is a definite,” said Deidra Duff. “Meats and stuff are very expensive.”

People are also eating out less to compensate for the higher gas prices. “Eating out, stop eating fast food. That’s the way I save money,” said Vega.

Like Vega, the Chavez family treated themselves and ate out about five times a month. Now, with gas surging past $4, “only once in the last two months. So it’s… You know the prices are going up and to fill up the tank with $65 is not the same as spending $35 to $40,” said Miguel Chavez.

In February, President Biden said, “all options are on the table” when asked about a federal gas tax holiday to help ease gas prices. Governor Ron DeSantis has said he wants state lawmakers to pass legislation that would give Floridians a gas tax break of about 25 cents a gallon for five months starting July first.

The price of regular gasoline broke $4 a gallon on Sunday for the first time in nearly 14 years and is now up nearly 50% from a year ago.

The price for gasoline in Europe is even higher, averaging 1.75 euros per liter last week, according to the European Commission, the equivalent of $7.21 per gallon.

GasBuddy, which tracks prices down to the service-station level, said Monday that the U.S. was likely to break its record price of $4.10 a gallon, but that does not account for inflation. In today’s terms, the record price would be equal to about $5.24 after accounting for inflation.

“Forget the $4 per gallon mark, the nation will soon set new all-time record highs and we could push closer to a national average of $4.50,” said GasBuddy analyst Patrick De Haan. “We’ve never been in this situation before, with this level of uncertainty. … Americans will be feeling the pain of the rise in prices for quite some time.”

Oil prices soared early Monday before retreating. In midday trading, benchmark U.S. crude was up 2% to about $118 a barrel, and the international price gained 4% to around $123 a barrel. Major U.S. stock indexes were down about 2%.

The United States is the world’s largest oil producer — ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia — but it is also the biggest oil consumer, and it can’t meet that staggering demand with domestic crude alone.

The U.S. imported 245 million barrels of oil from Russia last year — about 8% of all U.S. oil imports — up from 198 million barrels in 2020. That’s less than the U.S. gets from Canada or Mexico but more than it imported last year from Saudi Arabia.

The increasingly violent Russian attack on Ukraine has increased calls to cut off Russia from the money it gets from oil and natural gas exports. Europe is heavily dependent on Russian gas.

President Joe Biden has been reluctant to ban Russian oil, fearing it could further fuel inflation heading into the midterm elections this November.

Many Republicans and a growing number of Democrats in the House and Senate, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have endorsed banning Russian crude as a way to put more pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House hasn’t ruled out a ban.

Talk of a ban on Russian oil has led U.S. officials to consider other sources that are currently limited. In what was supposed to be a secret trip, senior U.S. officials traveled to Venezuela over the weekend to discuss the chance of easing oil sanctions on the major crude-exporting country.

WINK News contributed to this report.

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