Gas prices top $4 a gallon in every US state for the first time

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Not so long ago, in some parts of the United States, paying more than $4 for a gallon of gas was considered a coastal problem faced by Americans in big, expensive cities. But now, for the first time, the average price of a gallon of gasoline has exceeded $4 in all 50 states.

While the national average price has hovered at $4 or more for weeks, Georgia, Kansas and Oklahoma have yet to break the mark, according to Data followed by AAA.

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But they joined the rest of the United States this week, with a gallon of gas in Oklahoma costing around $4.01 on average on Tuesday, according to AAA figures. That’s well below the California average for a gallon of gas, which was $6.02. In Georgia it was $4.06 and in Kansas it was just over $4.

Nationally, the average cost of a gallon of gasoline was $4.52 on Tuesday. In addition to California, Washington state, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii all had average prices above $5 on Tuesday.

Severin Borenstein, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, whose research focuses on energy pricing, said while the prices “are a real shock” to Americans, it hasn’t been surprised by the milestone, adding that “with high crude oil”. oil prices, limited refineries and strong demand as the economy recovers, it is no surprise that we have reached these levels. »

Borenstein noted that rising gas prices are a “substantial hardship” for low-income drivers in particular, adding to a list of economic challenges including medical costs and rising rents.

Last week, the national average gas price hit a record high amid high inflation and turmoil in gas and oil markets, partly due to the war in Ukraine.

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Prices are even higher at the pumps along the highway, according to Data from the Federal Energy Information Administration: In all parts of the United States, it costs more than $5 a gallon to fill up near a highway. (The average price of gas on national highways is $5.61, up $2.36 from a year ago.)

Yet when adjusted for inflation, prices were actually higher in the summer of 2008, said Erich Muehlegger, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis, whose research focuses on energy and consumer behavior. He added that summer – the “driving season” – tends to bring about an increase in demand for gas and oil, driving up prices.

President Biden has sought to address the issue, saying in recent days that inflation is among his top priorities – although he juggles various crises, including a shortage of baby formula, the aftermath of the country’s latest racist shootings and Russia’s war against Ukraine. .

Borenstein said that although oil prices are difficult to predict, oil futures markets indicate that next year could see lower prices. In the meantime, he said, policymakers “should try to explain what’s going on rather than creating convenient scapegoats or pushing their own energy agendas.”

Muehlegger added that policymakers have few options to lower prices in the short term, although some have tried; he noted that gas taxes have been cut in some states and House Democrats are pushing legislation to prohibit price gouging. But oil prices are largely determined by global supply and demand, which limits the effect of such efforts.

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