The summer travel season has begun, and gas prices are hitting new painful highs.
The national average price just hit a new peak Wednesday, according to AAA, and the D.C. area is not faring much better.
“The District alone is $4.88 today … up 4 cents from last week, up 39 cents from a month ago and up $1.71 from what we were paying a year ago,” said Morgan Dean of Mid-Atlantic AAA.
“If you look at the D.C. metro area — including Virginia and Maryland — it’s about $4.65 today … 42 cents higher than a month ago and up $1.62 from a year ago.”
Dean points to news that European Union leaders agreed to ban 90% of Russian oil by the end of 2022.
“The concern between Russia and Ukraine — what that’s done to the crude oil commodities market, the price of crude oil, makes up 60% of what we pay at the pump,” said Dean.
Crude oil prices rose Wednesday afternoon to around $116 per barrel.
“There are lots of questions about when that price does start to come down,” said Dean.
Summer travel demand is also a factor for rising gas prices. AAA initially made a big prediction for summer travel.
“Over 50% of Washington, D.C., residents are planning to travel more this summer than they did last year,” said Ragina Ali, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs, back in April.
“So there are a lot of factors that look toward pushing gas prices up, not a lot of factors looking to pull gas prices down,” Dean told WTOP.
“I think two things to really watch for people if they want to know where gas prices are going — watching the price of crude oil, and looking at what we’re seeing for weekly demand for summer travel,” he said.
“If we start to see that demand just isn’t there this summer for travel, that could start to pull prices down as well.”
AAA recently completed a survey of drivers that asked when gas prices would change people’s driving habits.
If gas were to reach $5 per gallon, AAA said in a statement, “three-quarters said they would need to adjust their lifestyle to offset the spike at the pump.”
“The District alone is $4.88, which is really only about 12 cents away from that $5 mark,” Dean said. “And the price has gone up 39 cents in the past month, as we’re just getting into the summer travel season. So I think that there’s probably a good chance that we could see that $5 per gallon in areas.”