SAN DIEGO — San Diego set yet another record high for the cost of gas on Sunday, continuing a surge that’s sapping people’s bank accounts across California.
The average price of a gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline in the greater San Diego area has risen to $4.842, according to statistics compiled by AAA. That’s the highest it’s ever been, and the 10th time in 12 days that San Diego has topped its previous record.
The statewide average is right behind San Diego at $4.820, which is also a record.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is the latest factor driving an increase in prices across the country, experts say. Russia is the world’s third-largest producer of petroleum. Officials fear that Russia could withhold crude oil in response to sanctions, and the war could also generally interfere with the flow of resources out of the country.
“As the conflict escalates with more sanctions and retaliatory actions, the oil markets will likely respond by continuing to increase the price of crude oil to reflect more risk of disruption to tight global oil supplies,” AAA wrote in its gas price blog Thursday.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, California doesn’t import any oil directly from Russia, but the absence of such a major exporter will increase global demand from other countries, which could affect California prices in turn.
Gas prices were surging even before Russia’s invasion, though, and there are reasons beyond the geopolitical strife that Californians are seeing such high totals at the pump. Global supply of oil has been tight throughout the stop-and-start economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
As AAA explains, “moderating winter weather and optimism over a potential fading of the omicron variant have led to an increase in gas demand.” Many more drivers want to fuel up but production hasn’t met that demand, leading to higher costs.
There’s also California policies that always drive high prices.
The state has a Cap-and-Trade program that requires big greenhouse gas emitters – like oil and gas refineries – to offset their emissions by purchasing carbon credits. That cost is passed on to drivers. The state requires specific blends of gasoline to minimize pollution, which are more expensive. And there’s the taxes — California’s gas tax is second-highest in the nation at 51.1 cents for each gallon.
Added to the state’s relative geographic isolation from oil-producing areas, Californians face a slew of factors that will keep gas pricy for the foreseeable future, economists say.