Gas in San Diego at highest price since 2012: Why experts say it’s so expensive

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SAN DIEGO — The average price of a gallon of gasoline in San Diego County rose 1.9 cents Friday to just under $4.60, making local gas prices the highest they’ve been since October 2012.

That news comes one day after the region recorded its largest daily increase since Feb. 25 — 2.4 cents.

The new average of $4.596 (for regular, self-serve gas) is about 5 cents more than one week ago, 20.6 cents higher than one month ago and $1.45 greater than one year ago, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

The average cost of gas statewide is higher than what San Diego residents are currently paying at the pump: $4.658. It added about three cents this week.

Nationally, gas prices actually decreased on average this week, though analysts note that prices remain quite high. According to the experts at GasBuddy, high prices can be attributed to a variety of factors.

As the world bounces back from the pandemic and gets moving again, a surge in demand for crude oil has outpaced supply, driving prices up by the barrel. That cost is then passed on to customers at the pump.

The federal government has limited opportunities to directly affect the price of gasoline for customers. President Joe Biden has called on OPEC — the governing body for 13 oil-producing countries that provide most of the world’s supply — and Russia to “pump more oil” and balance out the supply for rising demand.

Those nations have “increased production at a slower, ‘cautious’ pace instead of doing so on the timetable that Biden would like,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, says.

As a recent Poynter analysis highlights, the president could potentially take steps to ramp up production at home, though that clashes with his stated domestic environmental goals and those of his party. Across the aisle, he faces criticism from Republicans who say he should do more increase to America’s output.

Regardless, U.S. producers can’t necessarily ramp up production as quickly as OPEC can, even if they chose to, experts explain.

“Increasing domestic production isn’t a policy decision. It is a private sector response,” James H. Stock, a professor of political economy at Harvard University, told Poynter.

With all that considered, analysts aren’t anticipating a major change soon.

“With President Biden still mulling over options to help push gas prices down, we could continue to see some volatility in oil prices,” GasBuddy’s De Haan said. “I don’t immediately see a large decline or surge coming in the run up to Thanksgiving, but U.S. gasoline demand does remain strong.”

De Haan added that so far, there’s no clear sign that the high prices are significantly curbing the amount of fuel people are buying.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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