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You could soon be paying $3 per gallon of gas

March 24, 2021, 5:47 PM UTC

Gas prices are on the rise—and they’re soaring at one of the fastest paces in the past five years, raising the possibility that consumers could be seeing $3 per gallon prices at the pump before Memorial Day.

The weekly average price of gas stands at $2.88 per gallon, according to AAA. Not surprisingly, that’s considerably higher than the 2020 numbers, when prices plunged because of the abrupt disappearance of consumer demand amid stay-at-home orders, but it’s also higher than it was at this point on the calendar for every year since 2016.

Gas prices typically increase as Memorial Day and summer draw near and, as vaccine distribution increases and more states relax restrictions, people are starting to venture out more frequently. Some analysts say that could drive prices higher than we’ve seen in a long time.

The highest national average price of gas to date was $4.11 in July 2008, according to AAA. Since 2015, though, prices have hovered well below the $3 mark. And a spike in prices comes as many consumers are still struggling with job loss and economic hardship.

To put things in context, here’s where gas stood at this point in recent years:

  • 2021: $2.88 per gallon
  • 2020: $2.21 per gallon
  • 2019: $2.58 per gallon
  • 2018: $2.58 per gallon
  • 2017: $2.29 per gallon
  • 2016: $2.01 per gallon

Many refineries scaled back production of crude oil last year due to the decreased demand and coronavirus limitations. The Texas winter storms caused more setbacks. But with prices surging, those refiners could ramp up production.

The bigger question, though, is whether high fuel prices will discourage people from traveling. A 2019 survey found 44% of respondents would change their habits if gas topped $3 per gallon, notes the Wall Street Journal. But with 12 months of virtual isolation behind them, it’s a mystery if people will get out regardless of what the drive might cost them.