Rising Gasoline Prices

The price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Columbia County is approaching $6 a gallon.

As gasoline and diesel fuel prices continue to set record highs, federal action may ease the pain at the pumps.

President Biden wants Congress to suspend federal gasoline and diesel fuel taxes as a way to slow the surging energy prices.

The Chief checked with Marie Dodds, the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) Oregon/Idaho public affairs director, for insight into what the tax suspension could mean for Oregon motorists.

The Chief: What sort of a price break at the pumps in our region does the AAA see with this presidential action?

Marie Dodds: The federal gas tax is currently 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24 cents per gallon diesel. But it’s tough to say if the entire amount would be passed on to consumers in savings at the pumps. In addition to the federal gas tax, most states, and some counties and cities also have gas taxes.

In Oregon, the current tax is 38 cents per gallon, plus any local taxes which you can find here:

President Biden wants the temporary gas tax holiday through September and is urging states to take similar action.

According to the Energy Information Administration, federal and state taxes make up approximately 15% of the total price of gas per gallon paid by consumers at the pump. While the federal gas tax has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, state gas taxes average about 30 cents per gallon – ranging from less than 10 cents in some states and over 50 cents in other states.

Most governments, including Oregon, use fuel tax revenues to build and maintain transportation infrastructure. As a result, gas tax holiday proposals can create a funding gap for road maintenance and repairs.

The Chief: Overall, how high have prices risen over the past year in Oregon and at what record-setting pace?

Dodds: Gas prices began climbing dramatically in Oregon and every other state in February and March after Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia is one of the world’s major oil producers, and anytime a major producer is involved in a geopolitical conflict, oil prices rise.

The U.S. and other nations announced economic sanctions against Russia including a partial ban on imports of Russian oil. Supplies of oil were already tight globally as the world’s economies emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. So, the war and the embargo sent oil prices even higher due to tight supplies.

When crude oil prices rise, so do pump prices, as oil is the main ingredient used to make gasoline and diesel. On average, about 53% of what we pay for in a gallon of gasoline is for the price of crude oil, 12% is refining, 21% distribution and marketing, and 15% are taxes, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. A year ago, crude was around $69 per barrel compared to $107 today.

On January 1, 2022, the national average was $3.29, and the Oregon average was $3.80. By March 1, the national average had jumped to $3.61 and the Oregon average to $4.03. In March, both the national and Oregon averages shattered the old record highs, which had been set in 2008 when the national average reached a high of $4.11 on July 17, and the Oregon average reached its high of $4.29 on July 3.

Since March of this year, the national and Oregon averages have set numerous new record highs. The current record high for the national average is $5.016 set on June 14. The current record high for the Oregon average is $5.548 set on June 15. This week, gas prices have backed away from record highs and are a few cents lower.

The Chief: Currently, what cities have the most expensive gasoline prices in Oregon and why?

Dodds: Among larger markets in Oregon, Medford/Ashland has the highest price of $5.54.

Among counties, these tend to have the highest prices:

Clatsop, Multnomah, Curry, Josephine, Deschutes, Lake and Grant. Current prices in these counties range from $5.617 to $5.787.

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