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SALT LAKE CITY — With the official start of the summer travel season just weeks away, U.S. gas prices hit an all-time high on Tuesday with a gallon of regular selling for an average of $4.37 per gallon, up 25 cents from just two weeks ago and $1.40 more than the same time last year.
Utah's average price of gas on Tuesday was well over the national rate, coming in at $4.49 per gallon, just a couple cents below its own historic high of $4.51 set last week, according to AAA.
What's behind record gas costs? AAA reports the increases are being driven primarily by the high cost of crude oil, which was hovering near $100 a barrel last week and is now closing in on $110.
"With the cost of oil accounting for more than half of the pump price, more expensive oil means more expensive gasoline," said Andrew Gross, AAA spokesperson, in a statement.
A barrel of U.S. benchmark crude was selling for around $100 a barrel Tuesday, a price tag that has been climbing throughout the year. The high price of oil is largely because many buyers are refusing to purchase Russian oil because of the nation's invasion of Ukraine. The European Union is considering an embargo on oil from Russia, which is a major supplier. Those pressures leave less oil to go around.
According to new data from the Energy Information Administration, total domestic gasoline stocks decreased by 2.2 million barrels to 228.6 million barrels last week. However, gasoline demand increased slightly from 8.74 million barrels per day to 8.86 million barrels per day. Increasing gas demand and rising oil prices have pushed pump prices higher.
What President Joe Biden had to say: President Joe Biden released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in November and March, hoping to reduce prices. That helped temporarily, but prices shot back up and stayed stubbornly high.
Biden in remarks Tuesday stressed that fighting inflation is his top priority, a sign of both the economic challenges caused by prices rising at the fastest pace in four decades and the political drag for Democrats that has resulted.
"I believe that inflation is our top economic challenge right now," Biden said.
He said that switching away from fossil fuels and greater energy efficiency will ultimately protect Americans from higher gasoline and heating and cooling costs.
Price hikes likely to continue: As the war Russia is waging on Ukraine continues and demand for gasoline continues to grow, experts are not expecting relief at the pump any time soon.
"We will see this trend continue probably throughout summer, mainly because of demand," said AAA spokesman Andrew Gross. "The weather's getting warmer. The days are getting nicer. People are hitting the road."
Here's a look at average prices per gallon of regular for select Utah metropolitan areas as reported by AAA on Tuesday:
- Logan — $4.47
- Ogden — $4.45
- Provo/Orem — $4.45
- Salt Lake City — $4.46
- St. George — $4.65
Contributing: Associated Press