US Gas Prices Are Starting To Fall, Except in California

Prices Still 1.5 Times Higher Than Last Year

Person paying at a gas station
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Grace Cary / Getty Images

You may finally find some relief at the pump this month. Gas prices declined slightly in most of the U.S., according to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) analyzed by The Balance. It’s great news for residents of states such as Florida, which saw a big drop in gas prices. However, there is little respite for those living on the West Coast (particularly in California), where gas prices continue to rise.

Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, gas prices have increased about 23% on the West Coast and Mountain West. Despite the slight relief in gas prices for much of the country, prices are still high—the national average is at $4.24 per gallon according to the latest EIA data, compared to $3.53 in the last week of February.

Key Takeaways

  • Gas prices have slightly declined across the U.S. according to the latest data by the Energy Information Administration, analyzed by The Balance.
  • Californians are still feeling pain at the pump, as California was the only state tracked by the EIA that saw an increase in gas prices last week.
  • Gas prices are starting to cool in most major U.S. cities, although prices are 1.5 times more expensive now compared to last year.

Gas prices have been on the rise since February, with the first two weeks in March showing steep increases in the cost per gallon in every state tracked by the EIA. However, the most recent data shows gas prices leveling off across the nation and in eight of the nine states tracked by the EIA, with California being the exception. The EIA compiles gas price data for California, Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Florida, Ohio, Minnesota, Colorado, and Texas.

Gas prices in Florida saw notable relief as of the latest data, decreasing 4.8% from $4.28 the week of March 14 to $4.08 the week of March 21.

Even with the latest decline, the cost of gas has surged since the beginning of the year between 85 cents and $1.20 per gallon in the states tracked by the EIA. The exception is in Colorado, where gas prices increased by 65 cents per gallon since the beginning of the year.

However, people in California will have to wait a bit longer before they can find relief at the gas station. Gas prices in California continue to climb, rising 2.2% in the week ending March 21, the only state to see such an uptick, according to the EIA data. Gas in California currently costs an average of $5.71 per gallon, nearly $1.50 above the current national average.

Higher gas prices are a double whammy for California residents who spend time commuting to work. The one-way work commute for an estimated 21.7% of Californians was longer than 45 minutes, according to 2020 data by the U.S. Census Bureau. The national average of people in the U.S. who spent more than 45 minutes commuting to work was 17.6%.

Estimates also show that more than two-thirds of commuters in California drove to work alone, compared to carpooling or using public transportation. Longer commute times may mean more time in the car, which could lead to more money spent on frequent visits to the gas pump

Gas Prices Starting To Decline in Most Major Cities

As of March 21, gas prices have begun to relent in most cities tracked by the EIA. The exceptions to that are San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Denver.

While it’s good news that gas prices did not rise in most cities last week, consider this: Just over the past month, gas has become 1.5 times more expensive on average than last year. In both Boston and Houston, gas prices are 53% higher now than the same time last year.

High gas prices don’t just give you sticker shock while you’re filling up your car; they also burn a bigger hole in your wallet. The more you pay for gas, the less money you have for essentials such as groceries. High oil prices and supply-chain constraints have already caused high levels of inflation, making everything more expensive. However, one way to make it hurt less could be by investing to hedge against the negative effects of inflation.

Methodology

The Balance analyzed current and historical gas price data from the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) weekly Gas and Diesel Fuel Update report. Geographic area definitions of U.S. Petroleum Administration Defense Districts, U.S. states, and U.S. cities are defined by the EIA. All change-over-time figures, including week-over-week, month-over-month, and year-over-year price changes, are based on the latest EIA data at the time of research of March 21, 2022. Commute time to work and method data was sourced from the 2020 five-year ACS estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Correction - March 25, 2022: This article has been updated to correct the percentage of people in the U.S. who have a commute of 45 minutes or more. The article was originally published on March 23.

Research and analysis by
Adrian Nesta
Adrian Nesta, Research Analyst on the Data Journalism team at Dotdash
Full Bio
Adrian Nesta is a research analyst on the Data Journalism team at Dotdash, the digital publisher that owns and operates The Balance. His work includes data collection, cleaning, analysis, and visualization for stories in the data journalism portfolio across every vertical at Dotdash.
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Article Sources

  1. U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update."

  2. U.S. Census Bureau. “American Community Survey - Travel Time to Work.”

  3. U.S. Census Bureau. “American Community Survey - Means of Transportation to Work.”