Gasoline prices are rising again across the nation and in Florida.
A gallon of regular gas cost an average of $4.19 in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area as of Wednesday, according to data from AAA The Auto Club Group. That was slightly above the national average of $4.13.
Gas prices have dipped slightly in April compared to last month’s highs of $4.40, spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But prices have steadily climbed back up due to the lack of Russian oil in the global market and ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns in China, according to AAA.
The domestic gasoline supply decreased by nearly 1 million barrels last week while demand has gone up, AAA said. Supply and demand are affecting the cost at the pump, but officials at AAA say the volatility of oil prices since the Ukraine war began in February is the main reason prices have stayed high.
Florida’s gas prices are the highest in the southeastern U.S. It’s the only state in the Southeast with prices above $4. And those high costs spill over — in the grocery store and elsewhere — as transportation costs have gone up to accommodate higher fuel costs.
On Tuesday afternoon, a group of nearly one dozen stood at the intersection of Fowler Avenue and N 30th Street in Tampa to protest the rise in gas prices. They shouted, “Fossil fuels have got to go” at passing cars.
Brooke Errett, a Largo organizer with the activist organization Food & Water Watch, said she wants to see more action from Congress to stop prices from continuing to rise. She said she worries corporations are taking advantage of global issues like COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine to profit off consumers. She’s experienced about a $15 increase in filling her tank during the recent spike.
“It’s not just about how it impacts me but those with the lowest incomes,” Errett said, adding she hopes local representatives will support a windfall profits tax on oil companies that would tax the surplus made from a jump in gas prices. The Big Oil Windfall Profits Tax Act bill was introduced to Congress by Democratic Representatives Ro Khanna of California and Peter DeFazio of Oregon in March.
Walter Smith, a 49-year-old environmental engineer, said while the end goal is to advocate for using cleaner alternatives of fuel, the impact of higher gas prices is hurting many people who still rely on it.
“We recognize people still need to use gas cars, but the oil companies are gouging people,” Smith said.
Tampa Bay’s inflation rate is among the highest of the largest metropolitan areas in the country at 10.2 percent — with gas prices seeing some of the sharpest spikes. Fuel costs have soared 46 percent in the Tampa Bay area this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly half of Floridians said inflation has impacted how they pay for essential living costs, according to a survey by the University of South Florida conducted between March 31 and April 12. About two-thirds also said the rise in costs has impacted their travel plans.
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The costs for holiday travel have more than doubled for Memorial Day flights, rental cars, cruises and hotels since last year, according to AAA, which suggests people start planning for the summer holiday trips now to lock in cheaper options.