Gas prices reached record highs on Monday as many Americans took to the roads to travel for the Memorial Day holiday.
The national average was $4.62 per gallon — an increase of 40% from the start of the year and much higher than the $3.04 per gallon average in 2021, according to AAA.
Prices in California were the highest nationwide with a statewide average of $6.15 per gallon, with prices in Mono County nearing $7 per gallon.
Amid the high gas prices and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, AAA forecast that 39.2 million people would travel 50 miles or more for Memorial Day weekend, up 8.3% from 2021. However, just 4.6% more drivers were expected to be on the road for the three-day weekend, down from 7.2% in 2019 before the onset of the pandemic.
Analysts say that by the July 4 holiday, most states could see average gas prices greater than $5 per gallon.
“I don’t think as many people are going to hit the road, and if they do, I think a good portion are going to be staying close to home,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told CNBC.
“There definitely should be a noticeable bump, but my impression is people are not driving as far. The concern is high prices that are keeping people a little closer. There’s also work-from-home that changed things. There’s a strong subset of people that can basically work from the road all the time.”
West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. oil benchmark, rose to more than $116 per barrel on Monday, while Brent crude, the international benchmark, surpassed $120 for a two-month high.
Oil prices have risen broadly as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the last time Brent crude climbed above $120 coming in late March when President Joe Biden authorized the release of an extra 1 million barrels of oil per day from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve for a period of six months.
The current rise in global oil prices comes amid rising demand in the United States with the start of summer, while European leaders weigh a potential oil embargo on Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine.
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