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Gas hits record-breaking $5 average nationwide

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Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The national average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. exceeded $5 for the first time ever Thursday, crushing previous records according to a measure from GasBuddy.

The fuel savings company, which operates a travel and navigation app that helps North American drivers save money on gas, said prices have gone up 66 cents in the last month to reach Thursday's record high, which is the sixth price record set this year. Another measure by the American Automobile Association had the national average price of gas at $4.97 on Thursday.

Supply and demand factors remain the cause of high prices. GasBuddy said U.S. gasoline inventories have fallen over 25 million barrels, or one billion gallons, since March because of a global decline in refining capacity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and increased demand for gas as people want to travel for the summer. Crude oil prices are also rising as a result of international sanctions against Russia for the ongoing war in Ukraine. Countries that normally rely on Russian oil exports are no longer accepting them, which has reduced international supply of oil at a time of increased demand. Crude oil makes up more than half of the cost of gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

These factors combined have pushed gas to $5 and beyond in many states, with no sign of prices coming down in the near future.

“It’s been one kink after another this year, and worst of all, demand doesn’t seem to be responding to the surge in gas prices, meaning there is a high probability that prices could go even higher in the weeks ahead,” said Patrick De Haan, the head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. "It’s a perfect storm of factors all aligning to create a rare environment of rapid price hikes. The situation could become even worse should there be any unexpected issues at the nation’s refineries or a major hurricane that impacts oil production or refineries this summer.”

As prices keep going up, President Joe Biden's approval rating keeps going down, reaching a new low of 39% approval this week in the Morning Consult/Politico tracking poll. Americans say inflation is the biggest problem facing the nation, according to a recent Pew Research survey, and frustrations with Biden's failure to alleviate economic pain is reflected in his poll numbers.

Republican critics charge that the administration has treated the fossil fuel industry with hostility, canceling new oil and gas leases and opposing the Keystone XL pipeline project, and this has prevented oil and gas companies from expanding production. The White House counters that gas prices are dependent on factors largely outside the administration's control, and that new oil leases would not have an immediate effect on prices because production won't begin on that land for several years.

Biden has also accused oil and gas companies of price gouging and raking in record profits because of high prices. But industry experts have pushed back against this claim, asserting that oil companies are price takers, not price setters.

While Biden is not solely to blame for high gas prices, his critics and voters say he could be doing more to address the issue.

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