Gas prices continued to rise across the U.S. this week, and pressure on the pump is unlikely to decrease as the summer travel season begins.
The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the U.S. hit a record of $4.59 on Thursday, according to AAA. It is the highest national average recorded by AAA since they began tracking fuel costs in 2000. On average, prices are about 50 cents more a gallon than they were a month ago. A year ago, the average cost of a gallon of gas was $3.04, according to the group.
Prices vary across U.S. states, with an average price in California hitting $6.06 a gallon for regular gas Thursday, compared with $4.03 a gallon in Oklahoma. Regular gasoline is currently more than $4 a gallon on average in each U.S. state for the first time since AAA started tracking data, said Devin Gladden, an AAA spokesman. The average price in Hawaii, Nevada, Washington, Alaska and Oregon rose above $5 a gallon Thursday.
Prices are expected to remain high throughout the summer. Mr. Gladden of AAA said prices typically decline by the end of summer, but what happens this year remains unclear.
“It really is coming down to the price of oil, and whether or not prices come down after the summer will really hinge on whether or not we see crude prices decline,” Mr. Gladden said.
The House on Thursday passed legislation 217-207, largely along party lines, that would give the Federal Trade Commission more authority to prosecute alleged price gouging if the president declares a national emergency. The legislation would also create a new unit within the FTC focused on monitoring fuel markets. The bill is largely seen as messaging from Democrats ahead of this year’s midterm elections, and it is unlikely to pass the Senate, where it would need bipartisan support.
A combination of factors has caused gas prices to soar. The cost of crude oil rose as consumer demand started to return to pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels over the past year. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year jolted the global market, prompting an increase in oil prices.
Analysts anticipate that prices won’t fall soon. A report from JPMorgan this week said retail prices for gas could jump to $6.20 a gallon by August, fueled by increasing demand during the summer driving season.
A survey by price tracker GasBuddy released Thursday found about 58% of Americans plan to take road trips this summer, up from about 57% who said they intended to do so in 2021, when gas prices were on average about $1.50 cheaper a gallon.
While the numbers have the highest price tag seen in the U.S., they don’t factor in inflation. In 2008 during the financial crisis, gas prices rose to around $4.10 a gallon on average—or about $5.39 a gallon when adjusted for inflation, said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.
In an effort to slow the climb of gas prices, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month issued a waiver allowing gas stations to sell high-ethanol content gasoline, which regulators typically don’t allow in some states during the summer due to air-polluting emissions. The Biden administration also said in March that it would release up to 1 million barrels a day from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
—Eliza Collins contributed to this article.