By Chris Isidore, CNN Business
Gas prices continued to climb Monday, rising to just short of a record high. At their skyrocketing pace, the price per gallon record of $4.11 will probably be broken in just a day or two.
The average price of a gallon of regular gas hit $4.07, according to AAA’s survey taken Sunday at 140,000 stations nationwide. That’s up 6 cents from the previous day’s average.
The average price hit $4 a gallon over the weekend for the first time in 14 years. The record high was set in July 2008.
“It is conceivable that we’ll see price moves of 15 cents to 35 cents a gallon this week, and it’s difficult to predict even one day where prices might dip,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, the firm that tracks gas data for AAA. “Most stations are on auto-pilot, they are buying as much product as they can as soon as they can and this can inspire another round of crazy increases.”
The six-cent a gallon increase between Sunday and Monday is actually the slimmest since a four-cent rise on Wednesday. The national average has soared 52 cents a gallon, or 15%, since February 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine. It is the fastest increase since Hurricane Katrina hit the US Gulf Coast and much of the domestic oil and refining industry in 2005.
Russia is one of the world’s major oil exporters, with most of its output going to Europe and Asia. Russian oil made up only 2% of US imports in December, according to Energy Department data. But oil is priced on global commodity markets, so the impact is felt everywhere.
The sanctions placed on Russia’s economy following the invasion have so far exempted oil exports. But traders have been reluctant to purchase Russian oil because of uncertainty about closing transactions given the limits on the country’s banking sector, as well as concerns about finding oil tankers willing to dock in Russian ports.
“Gas prices will skyrocket every day unless there is a breakthrough that ends the de facto boycotts for Russian oil,” said Kloza. He said that about 3 million barrels a day of Russian oil are now absent from the global markets — which was experiencing tight supplies and rising prices even before the war started.
The Biden administration said it is mulling a US ban of Russian oil imports. But that probably would have limited impact on global or domestic prices since so little is being shipped to the US, Kloza said. If Europe, which is still getting some Russian oil via pipeline, were to stop imports, or if Russia itself were to halt shipments to put more pressure on Western countries, that would have a greater impact. But that doesn’t appear to be on the table at the moment.
In some parts of the United States, $4 a gallon gas remains rare. A large swath of central states, from North Dakota south to Texas, have averages no higher than $3.75 a gallon.
But prices are rapidly increasing everywhere. The lowest statewide average is in Missouri, where unleaded stands at $3.63 a gallon. But that’s up 30 cents, or 9%, in just the last week.
There are now 21 states, plus Washington, DC, where the price is $4 or greater. All of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, as well as the West Coast, Nevada, Arizona, Illinois, Alaska, Hawaii, Michigan and Florida have statewide averages at or above $4. Florida and Michigan hit $4 a gallon Monday.
The highest prices are in California, where the statewide average stands at $5.34 a gallon.
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