California gas prices reach high of $3.27 a gallon, 66 cents more than national average

A gas station in Metuchen, N.J., in October 2017.
A gas station in Metuchen, N.J., in October 2017. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

(The Center Square) – California gasoline prices reached the highest they’ve been since March 9, 2020, hitting $3.27 a gallon, according to a new gasoline benchmark published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

California gas prices are roughly 66 cents more than average price paid by consumers nationwide.

Gas prices rose in all but seven weeks since they hit bottom at $2.64 on May 4, 2020, according to EIA data. The last time gas prices were this low was in early 2016.

Fewer people were driving as a result of state shutdowns and travel restrictions. Low gas prices caused by a flooding of oversupply in the market coupled with decreased travel hit the oil industry especially hard in 2020, causing prices to plummet.

West Texas Intermediate futures dipped below zero in April, causing a “bloodbath” in the industry with Texas leading the nation with the number of oil and gas bankruptcies filed. By January 2021, the price per barrel reached nearly $53 and is expected to reach $100 a barrel by the end of the year.

Nearly a year later after the first pandemic restrictions were put in place, more Californians are out traveling now than they were last year, according to a University of Maryland travel metric. In January, roughly 27 percent of Californians surveyed were staying inside compared to 49 percent in April 2020. With greater demand for gas, prices are going up.

“The willingness of consumers and corporations to spend more on fuel is one signal of economic confidence,” The Mercury News reports. “Nobody likes to pay more at the pump. But the price signs at local service stations may be a solid, real-time economic barometer – and higher is likely better.”

Nationally, AIE reports that gasoline is up 29 percent, to $2.61 a gallon.

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