Crude oil prices have reached their highest level in three years. The price, at $76 a barrel, compares to a 52-week low of $34. Among the reasons are the production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico that have been shuttered due to hurricanes. Several oil analysts expect crude to rise above $80 before the end of the year.
Several factors contribute to gasoline prices. The largest, by far, is the price of oil. As oil has risen, gasoline prices recently topped $3.18 on average for a gallon of regular nationwide, according to the AAA. That is up from $2.18 a year ago. The increase is one primary reason consumer prices have risen and worry about inflation has become a central part of the discussion of risks to the economic recovery. The holiday shopping season is less than two months away, and gas prices could cripple discretionary income.
The price of an average gallon of regular has surged to $4.39 in California, based on state gasoline prices from GasBuddy. The number has an outsized effect on the U.S. economy, because California is home to about 12% of America’s population.
Three other factors move gas prices: state gas taxes, refinery capacity and the cost of transportation. Gas taxes vary substantially from state to state. The American Petroleum Institute puts the average motor fuel tax at $0.5659 among all states. The state with the highest figure is California at $0.8538, a main reason the cost per gallon there is so high. The state with the lowest level is Arkansas at $0.3338.
For part of the year, most refineries shut down for repairs and upgrades. This can change the price of gasoline as well. Hurricane Ida closed many of the Gulf refineries, which caused a critical interruption to the fuel supply.
As for transportation costs, the state with the second-highest gas price is Hawaii at $4.03 a gallon. It is also almost certainly the state with the highest cost to bring in fuel from elsewhere.