The national average price for gasoline is currently $3.10 per gallon, according to data from AAA. Prices surpassed $5.00 per gallon in June; although costs are not projected to reach such levels, they could see a significant increase in the coming months.
“2023 is not going to be a cakewalk for motorists. It could be expensive,” GasBuddy Head of Petroleum Analysis Patrick De Haan told CNN. “The national average could breach $4.00 a gallon as early as May, and that’s something that could last through much of the summer driving season.”
Gas prices, which had already risen precipitously since the beginning of 2021, saw another increase following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. White House officials have pinned the blame for high gas prices on Russian President Vladimir Putin and domestic fossil fuel producers. “It is also important that the oil and gas and refining industries in this country not use the challenge created by the war in Ukraine as a reason to make things worse for families with excessive profit taking or price hikes,” Biden said earlier this year.
The administration has also claimed that recent declines in gas prices from record highs over the summer are attributable to policies advanced by the commander-in-chief. “Every month, the typical two-driver family saves about $120 at the pump compared to where we were in mid-June,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in October. “Every day, Americans save about $420 million at the pump compared to mid-June.”
As gas prices climbed toward the beginning of the year, consumers indicated they would alter their driving behavior in an attempt to save at the pump. As many as 66% of American drivers said in the spring that they would make “significant changes to their driving patterns” if the national average cost of gasoline lies between $4.12 per gallon and $4.35 per gallon, according to a poll from Yahoo.
The tumult in gas prices nevertheless failed to dissuade Americans from traveling at record levels during the Christmas season. Nearly 102 million Americans planned to drive to their holiday destinations, marking an increase of 2 million drivers since last year, according to data from AAA.
“Basically, curveballs coming from every direction,” De Haan told CNN. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen such an amount of volatility as we saw this year.”
Fuel prices vary considerably across the country: residents of California are currently paying $4.37 per gallon, according to data from AAA. Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) recently attempted to pass a “price gouging penalty” that would have compelled oil companies to reduce their profits to avoid a civil penalty from the California Energy Commission. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) voiced support earlier this year for legislation that would allow Biden to declare an “energy emergency,” granting him the ability to regulate prices by preventing fuel companies from selling their products at rates deemed to be “unconscionably excessive.”