The average price of gas in California has surpassed $6 a gallon for the first time ever as fuel costs across the US reach record highs.
Drivers in the Golden state are paying more for a gallon of fuel than anywhere else in the country at an average of $6.06, an all-time high for California and the US, according to AAA. The national average is nearly $4.59 a gallon, also a record, increasing 10 cents since Monday. Meanwhile, in some rural regions of California prices are even higher – fuel costs more than $7 a gallon in Mono county in the state’s east.
Prices are surging due to rising demand and tighter supply, according to AAA, and consumers will continue to pay more at the pumps amid the switch to summer blends of fuel, which can add as much as 10 cents a gallon.
“The high cost of oil, the key ingredient in gasoline, is driving these high pump prices for consumers,” Andrew Gross, AAA spokesperson, said in a statement this week. “Even the annual seasonal demand dip for gasoline during the lull between spring break and Memorial Day, which would normally help lower prices, is having no effect this year.”
With pandemic-induced inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fuel prices in California have remained high in recent months, even as they fell in other states. Those costs have hit Californians hard, particularly gig workers for whom fuel makes up a large part of their daily costs.
The record-breaking costs come as inflation, which is at a nearly 40-year high, has sent the prices of basic necessities soaring. In California, the governor has proposed an $18.1bn relief package to ease the pain of inflation.
The plan includes $11.5bn earmarked for $400 checks that would be sent to eligible registered vehicle owners, more than $4bn for emergency rental assistance and past due utility bills, and millions to allow for free public transit for three months and waiving the diesel sales tax. Meanwhile, the state’s minimum wage could reach $15.50 an hour in January due to a law that requires an accelerated increase when inflation rises above 7%.
California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, has faced growing criticism, particularly from conservative lawmakers, that he is not doing enough to combat high fuel costs in the state. Republican lawmakers have advocated for suspending the state’s gas tax, which is the second-highest in the country at 51 cents a gallon, a proposal that is now gaining support from some Democrats. But Democratic leaders have generally been skeptical about pausing the tax as they worry oil companies would not pass the savings along to drivers.
Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, argues oil companies are to blame for high fuel prices and said his party should target them. “The reality is that every American is sacrificing at this time – paying five bucks, six bucks in my district – at the pump, and they’re seeing big oil making record profits at the same time because of the war in Ukraine,” he told Time earlier this month. “That’s not fair.”
Residents in Mono county, which has some of the most expensive gas in the state, echoed Khanna’s criticisms.
“Here we are struggling to even work enough to get enough gas even go to work,” Linda Dore told USAToday. “I mean it’s definitely, how many billions do they need?”