A gas station in Malibu, California.DPA via Europa Press (Europa Press)

As gas prices continue to rise in the United States, drivers in Los Angeles – the driving capital of the country – are increasingly panicked. Last week, the price approached $8 a gallon at many gas stations across the city. While price increases stalled over the weekend, the situation continues to worry motorists, whose wallets have been hit hard by weeks of inflationary pressure and the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

“It’s crazy,” said Beth Rooney, a 26-year-old designer at the Culver City gas station, where the price per gallon hit $6 on Friday. “Luckily I can continue to work from home, but many of my friends have returned to the office, only to see their salaries disappear [on fuel]. It is becoming more and more difficult to make ends meet. According to Rooney, just a few weeks ago refueling cost 30% less.

The rise in fuel prices coincides with the return to normal following coronavirus restrictions. While some people can continue to work remotely, millions more have returned to the office in California, which was one of the last US states to ease its Covid-19 prevention measures. California has lived with chronic drought for decades, but in recent weeks there has been widespread unease over the most vital liquid for the state to function: gasoline.

Joel, a 32-year-old Salvadoran gardener, struggles to cope with high prices in Los Angeles, a city where the average car travels 34 miles a day. A few days ago, he was at a gas station in the Castle Heights neighborhood in the center of town, where he had gone for work. There, the cost of a gallon was less than $6. “I was lucky because I work here and I don’t have to travel to find cheaper prices. As they say, when God closes a door, he always opens a window,” he laughs. He gets serious, however, when he admits he’s about to ask his customers for more money and fears he’ll lose work if his prices go up. “It’s a difficult situation, and we don’t know when it will be resolved,” he said.

The war in Ukraine is upsetting an already tight global oil market and it is unclear whether we are close to a peak for prices at the pump, or if they continue to climb

Andrew Gross, AAA spokesperson

The American Automobile Association (AAA), which monitors the cost of fuel nationwide, says it does not yet know when the crisis, which has been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, will begin to s ‘mitigate. “The cost of oil is about 50% of what drivers pay at the pump,” said AAA spokesman Andrew Gross. “This war is upsetting an already tight global oil market and it is difficult to determine whether we are close to a peak for prices at the pump, or if they continue to climb. It all depends on the direction of oil prices.

US President Joe Biden said last week that the conflict in Ukraine will have an impact on fuel prices. ‘Defending freedom will have costs for us,’ he said after announcing that the United States would suspend all gas and oil exports from Russia in retaliation for the country’s invasion of Ukraine . The move added to the inflationary pressures the United States faced last year. The inflation rate is now close to 8%, the highest figure for 40 years.

On Monday, the average cost of a gallon was $4.32, up 26 cents from last week and an increase of $1.46 since 2021. In January 2019, the average cost of a gallon was $2.25. The state of Utah saw prices jump 50 cents in just one week, while in Arizona they rose 48 cents.

The situation worries many politicians. Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, which has the most expensive gas prices in the country ($5.74 a gallon), recently said his government was looking at contingency plans. One idea is to reduce a state tax that adds 51 cents to the cost of a gallon. This tariff, the highest in the United States, was approved by Democrats in 2017. Most of the money generated by the tax, which will amount to about $ 8 billion this year, is intended for the maintenance of roads and streets in cities. The state government is considering scrapping the tax, but fears gas stations — not the consumer — will benefit the most from the move.

The high cost of gas even leads to crime. On Monday, the Los Angeles Police Department warned drivers to watch out for gas thieves, with reports that some criminals were drilling into the gas tanks of parked cars to steal fuel.

In Houston, a gang of thieves stole over a thousand gallons of fuel from an underground storage tank. Last week in Long Beach, South Los Angeles, a man was arrested after paying $20 for fuel, when in reality he had forced the tap open to fill two large tanks hidden in a construction truck. The AAA expects these incidents to increase in the coming weeks as prices are expected to continue to rise.