The Russia-Ukraine conflict’s effect on gas prices


Thomas Kim

Gas prices in California and the nation have drastically risen due to conflicts between Russia and Ukraine.

Thomas Kim, Page Editor

The Russia-Ukraine war has sparked a steep climb in gas prices with no foreseeable end, creating a sense of fear and uncertainty amongst Americans.

Why are gas prices raised?

On March 8th, President Biden announced a ban on all gas and oil imports coming from Russia in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Although only 3% of the United States imports came from Russia (Asia and Europe consumes the most Russian oil), United States gas prices are still affected due to the global market of oil. Since most of Europe has set sanctions on Russian oil, Europe has to fill their supply from other organizations such as OPEC–The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries–which ultimately increases demand and prices for the United States. Although California gas prices have been increasing for some time now, due to more than just geopolitical issues. 

Unlike other states, California requires a special fuel blend to minimize pollution, causing the price per gallon of fuel to be 80 to 90 cents more expensive than other states. In addition, the cost of crude oil makes up for 43% of the price per gallon, and that price has been rising significantly over the past year. Paired with the state’s 51-cent excise tax and its 2.25% sales tax on motor fuels, it accounts for a large portion of the climbing gas prices.

“I bought extra gas tanks to store at home because of the increasing gas prices continually getting worse. I didn’t want to wait to pay a higher price in gas later on,” said Rishabh Nedunuri (‘22).

Alameda County has seen how quickly gas prices can spike firsthand, as it has increased over a dollar per gallon in just one month (from $4.74 to $5.91). California is also $1.50 over the national average per gallon. Covid has also served as a problem due to the massive oil bust in 2020 which has left companies, especially American companies, trying to recover rather than pump more oil. This created a big gap in the supply and demand of gas, causing higher gas prices to make up for the low-end supply. 

“Having an electric car right now has been super fortunate. I know some of my friends have super big gas guzzlers, so I have tried to use the electric car more often to drive my friends,” said Tyler Kubo (‘23).

The difference between the change of diesel vs. gasoline

In California, both regular unleaded and diesel gas prices have reached their highest recorded average at $5.913 and $6.418 respectively. But why is Diesel so much more expensive than gasoline if they both come from crude oil? First off, there is a higher federal excise tax for diesel at 24.4 cents per gallon compared to petrol being taxed at 18.4 cents. Diesel fuel cannot have over 15 ppm sulfur, and efforts to fulfill this have increased refining costs over the decade. 

Diesel is primarily used in freights and ships, so one may believe that it doesn’t affect the majority of Americans–but that is not the case. Diesel is highly popular in Europe which increases the demand worldwide creating higher diesel prices. Since Biden banned oil from Russia–and there is less supply of diesel already in the United States–the changes in diesel have been more impactful than regular gasoline.

“I think it is important to take into consideration that there is a global market with oil, so what is happening in other countries does have an impact on our lives,” said Brody Warner (‘23).

Similar times like this

In 1973 and 1979, there were two separate oil shortages from OPEC and stark price increases in crude oil which caused mile-long gas lines and people trying to beat the rush before the sun rose or late into the night. The crisis got so bad that eventually the implementation of odd-even gas rationing was created, where the last digit on a car’s license plate determined when gas refill was available. the days to refill gas. 

“In the 70s I remember having to leave work early on my lunch breaks to drive around looking for a place to fill up gas. I commuted from Livermore all the way to Sunnyvale so gas was really hard to come by at that time,” said Amador Valley Track Coach Barney Stocking

These crises deeply changed America. A national speed limit was set into place to save gas, and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve placed fuel economy norms on the automobile industry. Similarly to the current situation, when crude oil prices rise, the change in gas prices occurs more rapidly compared to the dropping of gas prices with crude oil rates declining.

“The gas situation back then was a lot worse than it is right now, but that doesn’t mean Americans aren’t struggling at all from the gas prices. It is moving up so quickly with no end in sight which I think is the scary thing,” said Stocking.

How gas prices affect different parts of our lives

Gas has become such an intricate part of everyday life that people are getting affected by the prices in multiple aspects of life. With oil affecting many products, such as plastic containers, furniture, polyester clothing, and cosmetics, the rise in gas prices will directly increase the prices of these products too. 

As mentioned previously, delivery costs will climb as well with diesel reaching record heights, forcing big shipping companies to raise prices in response to the situation. Products get to consumers through shipping, and increased gas prices means more expenses for companies to ship.

“I have definitely noticed an increase in prices at the supermarket, especially in the produce aisle,” said Kubo.

Rideshare and delivery drivers are hit extremely hard by these prices and some companies, like DoorDash, have created initiatives to provide relief to some drivers. Though, there is no telling what will happen to gas in the near future and the even bigger impact it will have on Americans. 

“Well for a casual DoorDasher like me, there hasn’t been much of an incentive to keep doing it with such high gas prices because the amount I was making in the past is nowhere near what I would be making now,” said DoorDasher Paul Kim.