The average U.S. cost of gas crossed the $4 per gallon threshold over the weekend for the first time since 2008 and, amid a global energy market roiled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, could soon surpass all-time record highs set over a decade ago.

Adding to upward oil price pressures are indications the U.S. could lead out on new sanctions that would restrict Russia’s ability to export oil and gas resources. Russia is one of the largest oil and gas exporters in the world, and while it only represents about 8% of the U.S. import market, plays a much bigger role in Europe where it accounts for about 25% of the European Union’s total oil imports and 40% of natural gas.

On Monday, AAA reported the average price of a gallon of regular in the U.S. was $4.06, just a bit shy of the all-time average high of $4.11 set in 2008, with Utah’s average price lagging behind at $3.85 per gallon. Utah’s highest average per gallon price of $4.22 was also set in 2008.

AAA spokesman Aldo Vazquez said the cost of gas in Utah is up $1.14 per gallon over a year ago and has jumped 45 cents per gallon in the past week as prices have escalated quickly following the onset of Russian military strikes on Ukraine.

“From a big picture perspective, the rise in crude oil prices are driving the price increases at the pump,” Vazquez said. “The war in Ukraine is one of the biggest stressors on the market and causing a lot of price volatility.”

Oil prices soared early Monday before retreating. In midday trading, benchmark U.S. crude was up 2% to about $118 a barrel, and the international price rose 4% to around $123 a barrel. Major U.S. stock indexes were down about 2%.

The United States is the world’s largest oil producer — ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia — but it is also the biggest oil consumer, and it can’t meet that staggering demand with domestic crude alone.

The U.S. imported 245 million barrels of oil from Russia last year — about 8% of all U.S. oil imports — up from 198 million barrels in 2020. That’s less than the U.S. gets from Canada or Mexico but more than it imported last year from Saudi Arabia.

Many Republicans and a growing number of Democrats in the House and Senate, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have endorsed banning Russian crude as a way to put more pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said an effort was underway to build international support for banning Russian oil exports.

“I spoke to the president and the leading members of the Cabinet about this just yesterday from Europe, and we are now in very active discussions with our European partners about banning the import of Russian oil to our countries, while of course at the same time maintaining a steady global supply of oil,” Blinken said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday.

Gas prices in and around Salt Lake City are advertised on Monday, March 7, 2022. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Asked whether the U.S. would ban Russian oil “unilaterally,” Blinken told host Chuck Todd, “A hallmark of everything we’ve done to date has been this coordination with allies and partners. We are much more effective across the board.”

Pelosi said in a letter to her colleagues on Sunday that “the House is currently exploring strong legislation” to further isolate Russia because of its attack on Ukraine. That could include a ban on imports of Russian oil and energy products, she said.

It’s a major step that the U.S. government has not yet taken, despite a long list of moves to punish Russia, as the White House has said it hopes to limit disruptions to oil markets. It wants to limit price jumps at the gasoline pump.

Those price jumps are exacerbating U.S. inflation which has been accelerating for months and hit a 40 year high of 7.5% in January.

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National average prices for a broad range of goods and services rose from December to January — and not just for items directly affected by the pandemic.

Apartment rental costs rose 0.5% in January, the fastest pace in 20 years. Electricity prices surged 4.2% in January alone, the sharpest rise in 15 years, and are up 10.7% from a year earlier. Last month, household furniture and supplies rose 1.6%, the largest one-month increase on record dating to 1967.

Food costs, driven by pricier eggs, cereal and dairy products, increased 0.9% in January. Air fares rose 2.3%. New car prices, which have jumped during the pandemic because of a shortage of computer chips, were unchanged last month but are up 12.2% from a year ago. The surge in new car prices has, in turn, accelerated used car prices; they rose 1.5% in January and are up a dizzying 41% from a year ago.

Contributing: Associated Press

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