by Kathy Busevitz, Julie Walker and Joshua Bock
NEW YORK (AP) — As Americans prepare for summer road trips, the price of oil remains high, driving prices at the gas pump to painful highs.
According to AAA, drivers were paying an average of $4.37 for a regular Tuesday’s gallon. That’s 25 cents more than a month ago, and $1.40 more than a year ago.
“The price of gas is ridiculous,” said Joel Baxter, a nurse who was filling her car at a BP station in Brooklyn, New York, to travel 26 miles (42 kilometers) to work. “The money, your salary, is practically the same, and everything is moving, so they must do something about it.”
High oil price is the main reason for the fall in petrol prices. A barrel of US benchmark crude was selling for around $100 a barrel on Tuesday, a price tag that has been climbing throughout the year. The high oil price is mainly because many buyers are refusing to buy Russian oil because of the invasion of Ukraine. The European Union is considering imposing sanctions on oil from Russia, a major supplier. They leave less oil for pressure rotation.
Drivers like Baxter say they want the government to step in to help, though few may say which solution will bring lasting relief.
“There are very few things that a president can do to help lower the cost of oil, and this administration has tried to do everything it can,” said AAA spokesman Andrew Gross.
President Joe Biden released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in November and March in hopes of driving down prices. This helped temporarily, but the prices bounced back and remained very high.
Biden insisted in remarks Tuesday that fighting inflation was his top priority, signaling the economic challenges posed by the fastest rate rise in four decades and political pulls for Democrats.
“I believe inflation is our top economic challenge right now,” Biden said.
He said moving away from fossil fuels and greater energy efficiency would ultimately save Americans from higher gasoline and heating and cooling costs.
The president said Americans are looking for ways to limit how much fill-up they need because of the high prices. “They are doing everything in their power to figure out how not to show up at the gas pump,” he said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said suspension of the federal gas tax is “an option on the table.” The suspension could in theory reduce gas prices by as much as 18 cents a gallon.
Republican lawmakers say the key is to send a positive message to energy producers by leasing more federal land for oil and gas drilling and by flagging the Keystone XL pipeline that Biden nixed last year.
As Russia waging war on Ukraine and gasoline demand continues to rise, experts don’t expect relief at the pump anytime soon.
“We will see this trend likely continue throughout the summer, primarily due to demand,” Gross said. “The weather is getting warmer. The days are getting better. People are taking to the street.”
This is especially difficult for people who drive for a living, or who have to drive to go to work.
“It’s expensive,” said 28-year-old Peter Lecter, who spent $60 on Tuesday to fill his tank in Brooklyn. “I’m doing Uber, so it’s costing me a lot of money every morning.”
He said that if the price of petrol keeps rising, he feels that he may have to find another job.
Still others have acknowledged that higher gasoline prices may be here to stay.
“That’s it,” said David Stephen, who was also buying gasoline in Brooklyn. “Everything goes up, never comes down… you can’t do anything about it.”
AP Video Assignment Manager Lisa Matthews in Washington contributed to this report. Bock reported from Washington.