Gas prices at 7-year high ahead of July 4th holiday weekend

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The 4th of July weekend shaping up to be the busiest travel period since before the pandemic, with 43 million Americans expected to hit the road with lots of traffic, higher gas prices, and possible fuel shortages along the way.

With millions gearing up for that long awaited post pandemic road trip, they're also digging deeper into their pockets for gas money.

The national average for a gallon is at $3.09 a gallon, and some stations are reportedly running out of gas due to a shortage of tanker truck drivers.

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The national average is now almost 5 cents higher than a month ago and 92 cents higher than this time last year.

With the U.S. economy rapidly recovering from the 15-month-long coronavirus pandemic, demand for fuel is rising and pushing prices to levels not seen since 2014. And hurricane season always carries the prospect of higher prices if a storm impacts oil drilling and refining on the Gulf Coast.

"Motorists should prepare to dig deeper for the second half of the summer, unfortunately," De Haan said.

AAA says there are more families traveling by car this year than there were in 2019, before the pandemic even started.

"It just proves that the road is back and stronger than ever," AAA's Jeanette McGee said.

Gas prices are averaging $3.13 in New Jersey, a big leap for some visitors from out of town hitting up the Jersey Shore.

"They are even worse here than they are in Atlanta," said Gary Flacks, from Georgia. "I much prefer them a year or two ago."

Still, others aren't deterred. Some are making the argument: what choice is there?

"I can't complain," said Lorri Manfaa, from Hatboro, Pennsylvania. "We're a little bit ahead of COVID, so it's what you got to do."

AAA said gas prices will increase by as much as 5 cents as we approach the Fourth of July holiday.

For consumers, higher gasoline prices are one element of an inflationary mix they've encountered as the economy recovers from the pandemic. Rising prices for commodities and materials have also boosted prices for such items as lumber, diapers, and meat and poultry.

The Federal Reserve is expecting many of these increases to be temporary. In an appearance before a House subcommittee last week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell cited "the pass-through of past increases in oil prices to consumer energy prices" as one factor behind the increase in inflation.

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While prices for some commodities have reversed direction recently, oil has held its gains for the most part. On Monday, West Texas Intermediate crude fell $1.14 to $72.91 per barrel, but the price is still up 50% on the year.

The most common gas price motorists in the U.S. were likely to see was $2.89 per gallon, the same as last week, GasBuddy said.

States closest to the large Gulf Coast refinery hub had the lowest average prices per gallon, led by Mississippi at $2.71 and Louisiana at $2.72. The states with the highest prices per gallon were California at $4.27 and Hawaii at $3.96.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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