The national average stood at $4.07 when the current round of price increases began on April 15. The current OPIS price reading represents a 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 readings from 130,000 U.S. gas stations used to compile AAA averages, showed that 32% of stations nationwide, nearly one in three, were already charging more than $5. gallon in Friday readings. And about 10% of stations across the country charge more than $5.75 a gallon.
The statewide average was $5 a gallon or higher in 21 states plus Washington DC when reading Saturday.
$6 gas could be next
The U.S. national average for gasoline could be close to $6 later this summer, according to Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for OPIS.
“It’s all from June 20 to Labor Day,” Kloza said earlier this week of the demand for gasoline as people hit the road for long-awaited 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 per gallon in Saturday readings. But the pain of higher prices is being felt across the country, not just in California or other states with high prices.
Cheap gas hard to find
That’s partly because the cheapest price wasn’t all that cheap — Georgia’s average price of $4.47 a gallon gives it the cheapest statewide average. Fewer than 300 out of 130,000 gas stations nationwide were charging $4.25 a gallon or less in Friday’s reading of OPIS. For comparison purposes, before the price spike earlier this year, the record high national average for gasoline was $4.11, set in July 2008.
There are some early signs that people are starting to reduce their driving in the face of rising prices, but it’s still a modest drop.
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 as gasoline prices rose more 50% since then. The number of car trips in the United States has fallen by around 5% since the beginning of May, according to mobility research firm Inrix, although these trips are still up by around 5% since the start of the year.
The main 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.
Many reasons for record prices
Beyond the strong demand for gasoline, there is also a supply problem that is driving up the price of oil and gasoline. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the sanctions against 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 that’s only part of the story.
Oil production and refining capacity in the United States has also not fully recovered to 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.