The national average stood at $4.07 when the current run of price increases began April 15. The current price reading from OPIS represents 23% increase in less than two months.
While a $5 national average is new, $5 gas has become unpleasantly common in much of the country.
Data from OPIS, which collects the readings from 130,000 US gas stations used to compile the AAA averages, showed that 32% of stations nationwide, nearly one of every three, were already were charging more than $5 a gallon in readings Friday. And about 10% of stations across the nation are charging more than $5.75 a gallon.
The statewide average was $5 a gallon or more in 21 states plus Washington DC in Saturday’s reading.
$6 gas could be next
The US national average for gasoline could be close to $6 later this summer, according to Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the OPIS.
“Anything goes from June 20 to Labor Day,” Kloza said earlier this week about the demand for gas as people hit the road for long-anticipated getaways. “Come hell or high gas prices, people are going to take vacations.”
The highest statewide average has long been in California, where the average stood at $6.43 a gallon in Saturday’s readings. But the pain of higher prices is being felt across the country, not just in California or other high-priced states.
Cheap gas hard to find
That’s partly because the cheapest price wasn’t all that cheap — the $4.47 a gallon average price in Georgia gives it the cheapest statewide average. Less than 300 gas stations out of 130,000 nationwide were charging $4.25 a gallon or less in Friday’s reading from OPIS. For purposes of comparison, before the run-up in prices earlier this year, the national record average for gas had been $4.11, set in July 2008.
There are some early signs that people are starting to cut back on their driving in the face of the higher prices, but it’s still a modest decline.
The number of gallons pumped at stations in the last week of May was down about 5% from the same week a year ago, according to OPIS, even though gas prices have risen more than 50% since then. The number of US trips by car has slipped about 5% since early May, according to mobility research firm Inrix, although those trips are still up about 5% since the start of the year.
The chief concern is that consumers will cut back on other spending to keep driving which could push an economy already showing signs of weakness into recession.
Numerous reasons for record prices
Beyond the strong demand for gasoline, there is also a supply problem that’s driving up the price of both oil and gasoline. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the sanctions on Russia imposed in the United States and Europe since then is a major factor, since Russia was among the world’s leading oil exporters. But it is only part of the cause.
US oil production and refining capacity also have not fully recovered to the pre-pandemic levels. And because prices are even higher in Europe, some US and Canadian refineries that would normally supply the US market with gas are exporting gasoline to Europe.
— CNN’s Matt Egan and Michelle Watson contributed to this report.