Energy Economy

Gas Prices Above $2 in All 50 States

Douglas A. McIntyre

The months when gasoline prices dropped close to $1 a gallon in some parts of the United States are long past. For the first time in nearly a year, the price of an average gallon of regular gas has risen above $2 in every state, according to GasBuddy. In California, the price has moved rapidly toward $3. In some of the largest cities in California, gas prices have already topped that level.

The primary culprit, obviously, is a hike in oil prices, which just crossed above $50 a barrel for the first time since November. The 52-week low for the commodity is $31.61, which puts the price up a breathtaking 60% since then. A number of experts on oil prices have forecast that crude likely will go higher and not lower. Recently, Saudi Arabia broke with OPEC on the need to cap production. The kingdom appears ready to continue huge exports, which have been a critical component in the rise in oil.

Oil-rich states, or those near large refinery complexes, were the last to cross the $2 line. South Carolina has the lowest average price among states at $2.09. In Oklahoma it is the same price. The largest cluster of refineries in the United States sits south of Houston on the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana ($2.14), Alabama ($2.11), Texas ($2.15) and Mississippi ($2.10) are among the 10 states with the lowest average gas prices.

Recently, some state legislatures viewed high gas taxes as a means of increasing revenue to fix old roads or to build general funds. Low gas prices meant the bite of higher gas taxes and levies would not hit consumer spending. That point of view no longer applies.

American Petroleum Institute data show that fuel taxes among the states still affect gas prices significantly. The research also shows that most of the oil-rich states have low taxes and levies, which will keep them at the bottom of the gas price list. While the average tax and levy among all states is $0.4804 per gallon, the figure in Oklahoma is $0.3540. In Mississippi it is $0.3728 and in Texas $0.3840. California not only has the highest gas price in the nation, it also has among the highest gas tax levels at $0.5883 per gallon.

The price of oil has risen relentlessly for months. Barring a massive drop in crude, gas prices above $2 are here to stay.