Are High Gas Prices in Los Angeles Just Part of the California Experience?

Gas prices in Los Angeles have been skyrocketing blood pressure for as long as most of us can remember. But just last week, our lofty gas prices hit a new milestone and it’s not a cause for celebration. That’s because, for the first time in LA history, gas prices are averaging over $5-a-gallon. Frankly, we’re just as reluctant to pop the champagne cork as we are the gas cap. 

A Record Breaking Wednesday Night

Los Angeles gas prices pushed into new territory late in the evening on Wednesday, March 2. It was just a difference of 8 cents that marked the grimly momentous occasion. The national average at the time of reporting is just above the $4.17 mark. Yet, California continues to rise, currently at $5.44 according to AAA’s gas calculator. And just in case you’re wondering, this isn’t accounting for premium gasoline. The breached average is strictly for the standard unleaded variety.

los angeles gas prices have been surging past previous records for over a month
Photo credit: CBS 19 News

A New Low in High Los Angeles Gas Prices

Many of us residing in the Greater Los Angeles area have paid over $5-a-gallon for gas before. Gas stations around Union Station are notorious for breaching $6-a-gallon even when gas prices are at their most affordable. And let’s not even discuss the lofty prices of the gas stations just off the 5 freeway near Tejon Pass. But the record breaking average is obviously a new thing. And unfortunately, the surge only continues. The 8-cent jump on March 2 brought prices-per-gallon to an average of $5.01. By Friday, March 4, they had reached $5.15. Los Angeles, California’s very own motor city, is leading the pack, but the rest of the state isn’t far behind. California hasn’t suffered a surge this severe since 2015. 

Why Are National Gas Prices Rising? 

Why have gas prices been so steep for so long in Los Angeles and, to a lesser degree,  the country as a whole? It’s a problem born from a variety of converging factors. You may have heard it blamed on supply and demand fluctuations arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Others are quick to point out general inflation. Then there are the claims that oil companies realized they can charge what they want with little to no repercussions. But the current spike has direct ties to Russia’s economic instability. Fallout from their near-universally-criticized invasion of Ukraine has raised concerns about the oil market. Russia is still one of the primary global providers of crude oil. 

global dependence on russian crude oil is a factor in rising gas prices
Photo credit: envato

Are High Gas Prices in Los Angeles Just Part of the LA Experience? 

High gas prices in Los Angeles are often factored into the elevated cost of living. But is this just a part of the price for calling this desert oasis home? For a city that all but demands its residents own a car, high gas prices are frustrating but somewhat expected. And for every Angeleno aghast at $7-a-gallon gas, there are three with loftier horror stories from their years at the pump. 

Nominal Pricing for Less Frightening Numbers

The uncharted territory of current gas prices isn’t vastly different from the scene at gas pumps in 2008. That’s because inflation has distorted how we see these figures. In 2008, gas prices hit a pinnacle of around $4.11-per-gallon. Adjusted for inflation, that price would equate to $5.22-per-gallon today. The situation is undoubtedly unpleasant but also carries a sense of familiarity in light of this adjustment. 

Average prices for regular unleaded gasoline in Los Angeles edged to just under $5.43-per-gallon on Monday, March 7. Analysts report that, without drastic action, we can expect the national average to reach $4.25-per-gallon by Memorial Day Weekend. By that same forecast, Los Angeles gas prices would be hovering just under $6-per-gallon on average. One look at the freeways is enough to confirm it will take more to break the typical Angeleno’s resolve.  

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