Bay Area gas prices have blown past $6 a gallon in recent days just over two months after drivers were stunned to see the average price top $5 as prices continue to climb with no sign of slowing down.
In San Jose, prices are at $6.12, Oakland is seeing $6.13, while San Francisco and Marin counties are tied for most expensive at $6.27, according to AAA. The state average topped $6 for the first time on Tuesday – 30 cents higher than a month ago – as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine combined with surging inflation and increased fuel demand spiked gasoline prices. It is also a staggering $1.36 increase since the beginning of the year.
Andrew Gross, a spokesperson for AAA, said global oil costs, which are now over $114 a barrel, are “driving these high pump prices for consumers.” On Tuesday all 50 U.S. states crossed the $4 per gallon mark for the first time.
“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,” Gross said in a statement.
For a commuter doing a roundtrip from downtown San Jose to San Francisco, the surging fuel price equals around a $20 round trip. That’s a $5 hike for vehicles averaging 30 miles per gallon versus January 2022 and almost double the cost from January 2021.
Drivers feeling the pinch may be wondering if Sacramento is still planning on sending gas tax financial relief after a flurry of proposals in March? The answer is yes, Californians can expect hundreds of dollars back this year, but it likely won’t come in time for your summer road trip as budget negotiations between the governor and Democratic leadership drag on.
California has long paid the highest fuel prices in the country, a sting that is particularly felt now as the average price per gallon is $1.50 higher than the national average.
Among the reasons for the state’s highest-in-nation status is a 51 cent gas tax – only Pennsylvania levees a higher gas tax – along with environmental fees to fight climate change, and a more costly fuel blend unique to the Golden State that improves air quality.
But there has also been an upwards of 30-cent difference between California and the national average that analysts can’t seem to account for, with fingers pointing to profit-taking by large gas station companies.
The oil industry has reaped massive rewards as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spiked fuel costs and loosened gas demand remains strong after COVID restrictions loosened.
Saudi Aramco, which recently overtook Apple as the world’s most valuable company, said Sunday its profits soared more than 80% in the first three months of the year, as the state-backed company cashes in on the volatility in global energy markets and surging oil prices. California imports over 16% of its oil from Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, London-based Shell reported $9.1 billion in adjusted earnings earlier this month a $3.2 billion increase from the same period last year.
Associated Press contributed to this report.