Maranda Caudle now spends nearly $80 to fill up her family’s pick-up truck in Arkansas, whereas three months ago she said she’d pay half that amount.
The steep prices have put a strain on her family, making it difficult to balance paying for the essentials and for her children’s extracurricular activities, like sports and school prom.
“We’re going to go out and buy a dress, but then we’ve got to put back money for gas, and then we also have to put back money for the groceries right now because they’re insane, and still have cost of living with just your electric bill, your phone bill, your mortgage,” Caudle, 33, told Insider.
Americans are feeling the reverberations from the Ukraine-Russia conflict, which exacerbated already-rising gas costs.
On Tuesday, the national average for a regular gallon of gas reached its all-time high at $4.17, according to data from the American Automobile Association (AAA). The previous national average high, reached in July 2008, was set at $4.11, data from the auto club say.
Gas prices were already spiking and inflation surged to a historic four-decade high before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
As Russia, a major oil producer, began its unprovoked assault on Ukraine, the US levied a series of harsh economic sanctions designed to cripple Russia’s critical cash reserves and cut the country off from access to financial institutions. These punitive measures have raised the prices of key commodities like groceries, cars, and crude oil.
“It’s becoming harder to find crude oil,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, an app that helps users locate cheaper gas stations. “More of Russia’s oil can’t make it to the market because a payment can’t be tendered or a ship cannot be acquired because of various sanctions on Russia.”
“And so that tilts the global balance of supply and demand. With Russia’s oil essentially off-limits, it drives up prices,” De Haan told Insider.
President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday a ban on Russian oil and gas imports, telling Americans to brace for more rising gas prices. The move came after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened Europe’s gas supplies.
Gas prices are now higher than ever, and experts predict the price could potentially reach $5 per gallon before prices decline. The cost could be even higher in more expensive states like California and New York.
‘I’ve never batted an eye at gas prices’
When gas prices last soared in 2008, drivers struggled to adjust, leading some to downsize or downgrade their vehicles while others pursued alternative forms of transportation.
Jared Pitts, a 26-year-old in Las Vegas, said it would typically cost him about $100 to fill up his Ford F150. His latest stop at the pump cost him about $160.
“I’ve never batted an eye at gas prices,” Pitts told Insider. “I expected to pay more being that I drive a truck. However, paying almost $200 to fill up just doesn’t seem right. Unfortunately with the way things are going I don’t see that being too far off, either.”
Experts told Insider Americans should expect the cost of gas to remain elevated through the spring and summer when drivers are typically more eager to get outside.
“During the summer, demand increases because the weather’s nice,” Devin Gladden, the national manager for federal affairs at AAA, told Insider. “Those factors typically lead to higher prices in the summer.”
To stave off costs, Gladden, who focuses on technology and energy issues at AAA, recommends that American drivers consider carpooling and combining trips. If the average gas price hits $5 a gallon, “consumers should start to consider a range of options, including driving less and alternatives to gasoline,” he said.
Another option might be to drive more fuel efficiencies or invest in electric vehicles, De Haan said, which can come with its own financial burdens.
“An electric car would cost me twice plus just for purchase,” Pamela from California told Insider. “Then higher insurance costs [and the] cost for home charger installed.”