California average gas price surpasses $5, highest in US

photo of gas sign
Ben Mefford/Staff
California gas prices averaged more than $5 per gallon the week of March 6, which is said to be caused by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as California state taxes on gasoline.

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California gas prices surpassed $5 per gallon on average for the first time following a disruption in the oil market due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Lucas Davis, a campus business professor, said the spike in gas prices is caused by an increase in crude oil prices. He noted crude oil is currently priced at $115 a barrel, the highest since 2014.

“California has the highest gas prices in the country because of its environmentally friendly gasoline — which makes it more expensive and high state taxes,” Davis said. “California state taxes make gasoline more expensive.”

Davis added the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine is causing this increase in gas prices. 

As of March 6, the average cost of gas nationally was $4.009, up from $3.604 a week ago, according to the American Automobile Association gas prices website, whereas California gas prices averaged $5.288, up from last week’s average of $4.82.

For Khudheeja Ahmed, a campus senior, who commutes to school from San Jose by BART, choosing a hybrid vehicle was vital due to how expensive gas is.

“I don’t consider an increase in 20 cents or so to affect my day-to-day driving since gas prices are usually around the $5 mark,” Ahmed said. “When I was starting to commute to Berkeley, my family bought a hybrid car, specifically because of how expensive gas is.”

Ahmed added the current spike in gas prices didn’t come as a surprise to her.

Stefan Elgstrand, legislative aide to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, said in an email that Russia’s disruption of the oil market is an incentive to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

“The global oil markets adversely reacting to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine adds yet another reason as to why we need to end our dependence on fossil fuels,” Elgstrand said in the email. “Transportation accounts for 60% of Berkeley’s greenhouse gas emissions, so eliminating the use of gas-powered automobiles is a priority in order to meet our climate goals.”

Elgstrand added a large portion of Berkeley’s population doesn’t drive vehicles powered by gasoline, and the city has been improving its infrastructure for alternative forms of transportation.

While these solutions reduce dependence on gasoline, Davis said they won’t help lower gas prices. Global oil producers need to increase production, according to Davis, which will help reduce Russia’s control over the market.

As the world anticipates more oil supply to arrive, Davis noted countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United States are expected to fulfill this demand. Moreover, Davis said this spike in gas prices is temporary.

“I would not expect these high gas prices to continue at this level. There will be additional supply that’ll come and bring these prices down in the next couple of months,” Davis said.

Contact Dhoha Bareche at [email protected].