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.
The price of regular 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.