Amid a spike in gas prices across the country, California is making efforts to mediate the situation for its residents.
According to Farid Javandel, deputy director of Berkeley Public Works, the city promotes alternative infrastructure and programs to reduce the Berkeley community’s reliance on gasoline by promoting walking, biking, public transit and shared vehicles.
“Our programs to support electric vehicle adoption and use of shared vehicles or transit are intended to give Berkeley’s residents more transportation choices,” Javandel said in an email. “That will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and increase our resiliency to fluctuations in the price of gas.”
Gas prices have increased due to the economic sanctions placed on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, according to campus public policy professor Severin Borenstein. Since the United States is in alliance with Ukraine, this can cause a significant source of crude oil to be cut off.
Borenstein noted the return to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic had already driven up oil and gas prices.
“Even before the whole Russia-Ukraine situation became a real issue, oil prices were going up because demand came back from the pandemic and supply had not caught up,” Borenstein said. “Worldwide, we were having an economic rebound, but oil production was lagging behind.”
Borenstein added the invasion of Ukraine drove up oil prices by $30 to $40 per barrel, causing gas prices to increase by around $1 per gallon.
California’s gas prices are even higher than the rest of the country’s because it uses a special blend of gasoline with a concentrated number of producers, according to Borenstein.
“One of the refineries that makes our special blend had a disruption, and their production dropped considerably,” Borenstein said. “That meant that California was now short of gasoline, driving prices up even further.”
State lawmakers have discussed multiple policies that aim to reduce the impacts in California.
California Republicans are pushing to suspend the gas tax entirely, which is $0.51 per gallon, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom has discussed the idea of sending a $400 debit card to everyone who owns a car.
Republican lawmakers are also pushing to suspend the gas tax at the federal level, which is $0.184 per gallon. Borenstein noted, however, that the gas tax goes towards road building and infrastructure.
According to BART Board President Rebecca Saltzman, Berkeley has seen a significant increase in BART ridership. Last month, BART saw its highest ridership in the past two years.
“Likely some of the increase is due to high gas prices. It is significantly cheaper to ride BART than to pay for gas, tolls, and parking,” Saltzman said in an email. “We are welcoming back BART riders and encourage all those impacted by high gas prices to switch to transit.”