U.S. Gas Price Average Hits $3.15 a Gallon, Highest Since 2014

by Amy Myers

If you’re like us, you’ve been dreading looking at the gas gauge on your dashboard more than usual. With a national gas price average of $3.15 a gallon, who could blame you?

Right now, gas prices are higher than they’ve ever been in seven years. The last time they were this high was in 2014 when the lowest average price of the year was in December at $2.63 and the highest was in June at $3.76. Despite the major jump, this is still less than the nation’s average gas price in July of 2008, which was a whopping $4.11.

In 2008 and 2014, prices steadily increased to their dreaded peak, at least giving drivers an inkling that they would be paying more for petroleum. However, this year, it seems the drastic increase in prices has blindsided us. Just this January, average gas prices only reached $2.42. A year ago in July, we barely broke two dollars per gallon.

Of course, this was largely because of social distancing restrictions. Back in the summer, when COVID-19 cases were at their peak, gas stations saw minimal commuters and therefore cut their prices. But now that states continue to repeal restrictions, commuters are back at the pumps. Perhaps that’s why this summer’s rates feel so much more taxing on our budgets.

For some unlucky drivers on the West Coast, the current national average of $3.15 would be a welcomed sight. However, California residents are experiencing rates reminiscent of 2008 with a state average of $4.31. Meanwhile, those in the South have an easier time at the pump. Mississippi currently has the lowest rates in the country, averaging at $2.77 a gallon.

Gas Price Increase Comes Just Two Months After Pipeline Cyberattack

When the COVID-19 pandemic first began to spread across the nation, we experienced an astounding sight of shoppers stocking up on the strangest items just for the sake of stocking up. Paper products were nowhere to be found, and finding a bottle of disinfectant spray was like winning a lottery ticket.

For a while, you could only purchase a single product per household, as distributors and companies struggled to keep up with demand. Though we still don’t really know why everyone needed extra toilet paper during the pandemic, we do know it’s caused a sort of paranoia when the country faces a small crisis.

This is what happened when the Colonial Pipeline, a company that provides the U.S. East Coast approximately 45% of its petroleum, experienced a cyberattack. Following the pipeline’s temporary shut down, Americans began to panic buy again. And, just as we saw in early 2020, the panic buying led to a widespread shortage. Gas prices increased and stations shut down.

Some states saw the effect on their prices within days. Georgia saw an increase of 23 cents in gas price in less than two weeks. In Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, more than half the gas stations across the state ran out of fuel.

Thankfully, it doesn’t seem anyone is interested in panic buying while the rates are so high. While we face the current increase in gas prices, we can hope that in this case, history will repeat itself, and the rates will stabilize once again.