PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks about inflation in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex in Washington, May 10, 2022.

Gasoline prices hit national average of $5 after rapid increase

The average price of a gallon of gas nationwide topped $5 on Thursday, breaking the milestone after a rapid rise over the past month that has alarmed public officials and strained the budgets of everyday Americans, according to GasBuddy.

Across all 50 states, the average price of a gallon of gasoline was over $4.40, but costs varied widely by region, with drivers in the west and northeast suffering the highest prices and southeast drivers the lowest prices, according to AAA data.

In California, the state with the highest gas prices, drivers paid a staggering average of $6.40 per gallon, according to AAA data.

The price hike is due to a boom in summer travel that has brought more people to the pumps, experts told ABC News late last month. The surge in demand coincides with a shortage of crude oil supplies amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has caused a widespread industrial outflow from Russia that has pushed millions of barrels of oil out of the market, experts said.

As consumer frustration has grown in recent months, President Joe Biden has come under fire for his handling of cost increases for essentials like fuel and groceries. Only 37% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the economic recovery, according to an ABC/Ipsos poll released Sunday.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks about inflation in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex in Washington, May 10, 2022.

President Joe Biden speaks about inflation in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex in Washington, May 10, 2022.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP, FILE

Republican congressional leaders have criticized Biden’s handling of the U.S. oil supply for high gas prices, lambasting his choice to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline last year.

As of last week, Biden had been leaning towards a trip to Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, which could offer hope for relief for American gas buyers.

In March, the United States and its allies announced the collective release of 60 million barrels of oil from its strategic reserves over the following months, which was intended to alleviate some of the supply shortages and sharp increases in price.

On Sunday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos that inflation was Biden’s “top economic priority.”

Stephanopoulos questioned Buttigieg on Sunday about the release of oil from strategic reserves, saying it “didn’t make any difference.” Stephanopoulos asked, “Was it a failure?

“I don’t think it’s correct to say it made no difference,” Buttigieg said. “It’s an action that has helped stabilize global oil prices.”

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