National gas prices at all time high, travelers make changes around MA

More than half of Americans are planning to make travel changes because of rising gas prices, according to a recent AAA survey. But when it comes to summer vacations, many people are not letting those prices get in the way.

“When gas prices get this high, we definitely see behavior changes in people,” said Mary Maguire, AAA director of Legislative and Public Affairs in Massachusetts.

She added regular gas is at an all-time high average cost of $4.39 per gallon, while diesel is also at an all-time high at $6.27 per gallon.

“People will be driving less, working more from home and consolidating trips, among other things,” Maguire said. “They are finding they have no choice but to make adjustments.”

National average at all time high

“Americans felt gas prices were too expensive just a few weeks ago at $3.53 per gallon,” according to a statement from AAA. “Now with the national average at an all-time high of over $4, Americans may have reached a tipping point. Over half (59%) said they would make changes to their driving habits or lifestyle if the cost of gas rose to $4 per gallon. If gas were to reach $5, which it has in the Western part of the country, three-quarters said they would need to adjust their lifestyle to offset the spike at the pump.

“While many Americans may adapt their daily habits to make up for higher gas prices, it likely won’t have as much of an impact on summer travel. AAA’s survey found that 52% of Americans have plans to take a vacation this summer. Of those, 42% said they would not consider changing their travel plans regardless of the price of gas.”

As for how high (gas prices will get this summer), “it’s basically impossible to get a good gauge on where we’ll be this summer because of the wide range of possibilities,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at fuel savings app GasBuddy. 

Pump prices rose again over the past week due primarily to the high cost of crude oil, according to AAA. The cost of a barrel of crude continues to hover around $100. With the oil price accounting for about 60% of pump prices, the national average for a gallon of regular is now $4.39, an increase of 27 cents since April 25.

“As long as the supply remains tight, it will be hard for crude oil prices to fall and consumers will in turn face higher prices at the pump,” said Andrew Gross, a AAA spokesperson. “It now costs drivers in the U.S. about $23 more to fill up than a year ago.”

All prices rising

Overall, U.S. consumers are paying 8.5% more for goods and services compared with last year. The 18.3% increase in prices for gasoline Americans experienced in March accounted for most of the increase in last month’s overall Consumer Price Index, which rose by 1.2% from February. 

There are some Democrat-led proposals in the works to remedy the problem, including the “Big Oil Windfall Profits Tax,”  levying a per-barrel tax on major oil companies “equal to 50% of the difference between the current price of a barrel of oil and the pre-pandemic average price per barrel between 2015 and 2019,” according to a brief of the bill.  

Already four states – Maryland, Georgia, Connecticut and New York – enacted gas tax holidays to provide temporary relief. (Maryland’s holiday’s expired April 18 and New York’s doesn’t go into effect until June 1. At least a dozen states have considered implementing one. California, New Jersey and Delaware also are considering sending rebates.

Many Republican lawmakers are resurrecting calls to expand the Keystone XL pipeline, which they claim would lower gas prices and help the U.S. become even more energy independent.

President Biden prevented the expansion in one of his earliest executive orders citing environmental concerns. Keystone XL, which would ship crude oil from Alberta to existing pipelines and then on to the Gulf Coast refineries, would take years to construct and would not be assured to increase U.S. supplies. 

USA Today personal finance and markets correspondent Elisabeth Buchwald contributed to this article.

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