Californians resigned as petrol prices skyrocket

Some say they are willing to pay the extra cost after seeing the images of war

A man refuels his car at a Shell gas station in Los Angeles, California. EPA
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Californians filling up their cars on Friday winced at the spiralling cost of petrol, but largely shrugged as they have long dealt with the highest prices in the US.

California drivers are paying an average of more than $1.34 per litre, said the American Automobile Association (AAA), up more than a third from a year ago, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine sends world oil prices rocketing.

“I'm not really into politics or anything like that, but now that this thing is going on between Russia and Ukraine, it's just that sad,” driver Mike Hernandez told AFP.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine has sent financial markets into meltdown.

Prices for crude oil — the raw material for petrol — have been hit hard and are up well above $110 a barrel, with players fretting about the impact on Russian supplies, as sanctions choke Moscow off from the global economy.

While all countries have access to the same petrol, subsidies or taxes imposed locally mean the ultimate cost to consumers varies wildly.

For example, in oil-producing Nigeria, which subsidises fuel, the official price is 40 cents per litre.

In Hong Kong, drivers were already paying $2.50 per litre in 2021, Economist Intelligence Unit reported.

On average, Americans pay about $1 per litre, the AAA said, and even California's $1.34 per litre is well below the prices paid by Europeans.

“It's expensive but it's always been more expensive here in California, so I guess we're used to it,” said driver Harry Lee, as he fuelled up on the way to work in Los Angeles on Friday.

“I'll be happy when it goes down but so far it doesn't impact me too much.

“My cousin, who drives for Uber here in LA, is complaining a lot though. I guess it can be hard on him if gas remains at this level for too long.”

California's relatively high petrol prices are the result of state taxes as well as stricter refining rules that require specific fuel formulas intended to reduce air pollution in the hot summer months.

While many drivers have grumbled about seeing pump prices rise almost daily, some say they are prepared to put up with the extra cost because of the pictures of the war in Ukraine they are seeing on the news.

“I would rather have high gas prices here than an authoritarian regime in the Ukraine,” said Los Angeles resident Jacqueline St-Anne.

“If we have to suffer with a little bit of inflation and gas prices for a while to assure that such a wonderful country as Ukraine has an opportunity to develop its democracy, we should do that.”

For others, there is a simple solution to paying through the nose.

“I just bought a Tesla,” said Matthew Reynl.

“That's my solution to the gas prices going up.”

Updated: March 04, 2022, 9:01 PM