Summer gas prices are expected to remain high. Blame a rise in travel demand

Gas prices in Southern California are expected to remain high throughout this summer vacation season, pushed up by a rise in travel demand that began with a surge in road trips this Memorial Day weekend, experts say.

The good news is that gas prices are not likely to spike to last year’s record high levels when a gallon of gasoline peaked at more than $6.

“Usually when demand is up, gas prices go up,” said Anlleyn Venegas, spokesperson for the American Automobile Assn.

Warm temperatures and sunny skies during the summer usually encourage vacationers to drive more, and numbers from this past Memorial Day weekend indicate motorists may be just as willing to get behind the wheel as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic started, Venegas said.

Prices spiked just before the Memorial Day weekend when 2.8 million Southern Californians traveled by car, a 6% increase over 2022.

That increase in demand is reflected in the cost of gasoline. According to AAA, the average cost of a gallon of regular in Southern California is currently $4.87, about a cent higher than Tuesday, and 6 cents higher than a week earlier.

In some parts of the state, the average cost of a gallon is nearing $5.

In the Los Angeles-Long Beach region, the average cost of a gallon of regular is $4.95, a 7-cent increase from last week. In Ventura County, a gallon of regular will set you back $4.99.

That’s a stark difference from the national average of $3.58 a gallon, a drop of 3 cents from a month earlier.

Gas prices may stay high during the summer, but Venegas said there are good indicators prices won’t reach 2022 levels, when the cost of a gallon of gas soared past $6. That year, the cost of a gallon of gasoline reached as high as $6.17.

California already switched to its summer blend of gasoline in April, which reduces emissions but adds about 15 to 20 cents to the cost per gallon, Venegas said.

“It did go up, which is normal,” she said. “As soon as summer begins we see gas prices go up because of demand.”

The cost for crude oil is currently at $73 a barrel, which she said will likely keep prices significantly below 2022 prices.

“We don’t expect gas prices to be as high as last year,” she said. “As long as crude oil prices are below $80 a barrel, gas prices shouldn’t go as high as they went last year.”

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