Americans will hit the road this holiday weekend with the highest gas prices in seven years and the White House promising to watch fuel costs.
The national average price at the pump hit $ 3.045 per gallon this month, the highest since 2014, and was only a tenth of a cent lower than Friday, according to data from the AAA Automobile Club.
“The president knows gas prices are a pain point for Americans,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Friday. “President Biden is opposed to any proposal to increase the gasoline tax. And that is why we will continue to monitor prices, and are happy that the Americans can get back on the road.
Demand for gasoline is returning to near pre-pandemic levels as the world’s largest economy opens and avid drivers hit the road after a year of closures and restrictions.
Summer gasoline demand could return to normal, with a few weeks above record levels of 10 million barrels per day, said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. Any disruption in supply to refineries in the form of a hurricane or an unforeseen blackout could cause prices to spike.
“The concern is that any hiccups could be made worse by the shortage of truck drivers, resulting in slow restores and other price implications,” De Haan said in an email.
The weekend leading up to the Memorial Day holiday on Monday typically marks the start of the driving season in the United States.
National gasoline demand, as measured by the four-week average of fuel supplied, exceeded 9 million barrels per day for the first time since March of last year, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
It’s at a time when the country’s gasoline supply is struggling to recover from the week-long shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline earlier this month. The country’s largest pipeline, which carries gasoline and diesel from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, was temporarily hampered by a cyber attack, triggering regional gasoline shortages.
Restoring regional supplies has not been as easy as restarting the flow of fuel, in part due to a severe shortage of trucks and drivers needed to get gas from hubs to retailers. And refineries are operating at some of the lowest seasonal rates in nearly a decade, due to declining demand during the pandemic.
In his statement, Psaki said prices are in line with what they have been in recent years in real terms, or when discounted for inflation.
“As Americans hit the road, they are paying less in real terms for gasoline than they have on average over the past 15 years,” she said. “They pay roughly the same price as in May 2018 and May 2019.”