Prices at the pump are continuing to soar near record levels, despite President Joe Biden’s attempts to ease price pressures by releasing millions of barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
According to AAA, the national average price for a gallon of gas sits at $4.328 per gallon, less that one cent below the previous record of $4.331 set in March. That price is also more than a dollar more per gallon than it was in May of 2021, when gas was just $2.96 per gallon. California’s statewide average is currently the highest in the nation and nearing $6 per gallon, currently at $5.829 per gallon. The lowest statewide average belongs to Georgia, which averages $3.844 per gallon.
Diesel fuel hit a new record high, according to AAA. The national average for a gallon of diesel climbed all the way up to $5.540 per gallon. That number is eight cents more than last week’s national average, nearly 50 cents more than last month, and fully $2.42 more than May of 2021.
AAA put most of the blame on oil prices, which peaked at around $110 per barrel on Monday. However, some oil producers closed trading at lower prices after Saudi Arabia lowered prices for Europe and Asia, and China imposed another round of COVID-19 lockdowns, according to MarketWatch.
“With the cost of oil accounting for more than half of the pump price, more expensive oil means more expensive gasoline,” AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said in a statement Monday. “These prices are creeping closer to those record high levels of early March.”
Biden originally announced the release of 1 million barrels of crude oil per day for the next six months, a total of about 180 million barrels, from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve on March 31, after gas prices surged to record highs in early March. The White House announced that it had sold the first 30 million barrels of oil on April 21.
“These barrels will be delivered in May and June, and are the first U.S. sale in the largest release from reserves from both the United States and the rest of the world in history. Together, these releases will put more than one million barrels per day on the market over the next six months, and will help address supply disruptions caused by Putin’s further invasion of Ukraine and the Price Hike that Americans are facing at the pump,” the White House wrote in a statement at the time.
But critics say Biden’s actions have had little effect on supply, especially the diesel market, which powers much of the country’s economic activity in the tanks of trucks, trains, and ships. The Daily Wire reported last week that, according to Bloomberg, diesel inventories on the East Coast have plunged to the lowest levels on record.
That news sent diesel prices to record highs, according to GasBuddy, which also recorded the largest-ever gap in price between diesel and gasoline. Much of that price hike was due to a sharp decline in diesel production from refineries in the Northeast. The number of refineries in the Northeast has been halved in the last 15 years, from 14 to 7, and those refineries are operating far below capacity because of a lack of supply, even as the U.S. is exporting “unusually high levels” of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.