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Transportation and Mobility

How High Can Gas Get? At Least Another Dollar A Gallon

A gas station sits on the corner of a busy intersection. Two silver cars drive past the camera. The Chevron gas station has a big rectangular sign on the corner that lists the current prices of Gasoline if paid by cash (self-serve, with techron). Regular: 543 9/10. Plus: 565 9/10. Supreme: 577 9/10. Diesel No. 2: 529 9/10. There is a smaller sign next to it that lists prices if paid by credit card. Regular: 555 9/10. Plus: 577 9/10. The third price is obscured by the many cars turning in the area.
A gas station in Alhambra on March 4.
(Frederic J. Brown
AFP via Getty Images)
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This week has been the worst ever for local gas price increases, according to the Auto Club of Southern California.

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in the Los Angeles and Long Beach areas has jumped to $5.78. That's 77 cents higher than it was a week ago.

Orange County saw a similar increase; the average price there is now $5.76 a gallon.

But it can get even worse, according to UC Berkeley Professor Severin Borenstein— at least another dollar worse, if Russia, which produces 10% of the world's oil, loses access to the global market.

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That could happen if Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to bombard civilians, schools and hospitals in Ukraine or decides to cross into NATO countries.

"The sanctions on Russia will be tightened further and could eventually make it very difficult for Russia to sell any oil into the world market," Borenstein said.

Borenstein said Russia may still be able to sell to China or India, but depending on the severity of the violence, Russian oil and gas could become too toxic to accept.

"Every time [the price of crude oil] goes up $1 per barrel, the price of gasoline follows at 2.5 cents per gallon," he said. "So if prices went up another $50 a barrel, which I think is quite plausible ... that would raise the price of gasoline another $1.25 a gallon."

There may be temporary relief coming soon, though. Oil prices have dropped $20 a barrel in the last 24 hours, and if that holds, Borenstein expects gas prices to drop "at least a bit."

Here's a look at prices as of Thursday morning:

 A grid of prices list the averages across Southern California.
(Courtesy AAA SoCal)
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