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U.S. gas prices hit another record high

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Gas prices just hit another record high, just as the summer driving season is about to take off. And that is frustrating travelers already paying a lot more for everything because of high inflation. NPR's Brittany Cronin reports.

BRITTANY CRONIN, BYLINE: At a gas station in Harlem yesterday, this is what I kept hearing.

SIRAN HENDERSON: Gas prices are ridiculous.

CRONIN: That's Siran Henderson filling up his tank. He sees me with the mic and calls me over.

HENDERSON: We blame it on Ukraine, but we trying to survive out here.

CRONIN: Everything costs more these days - food, rent and especially gasoline. The national average for a gallon of gas reached $4.40 today, according to AAA, setting another record, not adjusted for inflation. Patrick De Haan from GasBuddy says it comes down to how much oil prices have surged since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

PATRICK DE HAAN: As more countries stop buying oil from Russia, that means that these buyers have to find oil elsewhere.

CRONIN: Russia is one of the world's largest oil exporters, and the European Union is considering joining the U.S. and U.K. in banning Russian oil imports. President Biden is taking steps to try to bring down gas prices, including releasing oil from the country's emergency reserves. But De Haan says those actions just aren't enough.

DE HAAN: It doesn't even come close to the total production ability that Russia has of 10 million barrels, and that's why it's a losing battle. There's no way to offset Russia's oil production capability.

CRONIN: And it's not just the price of oil driving up gas prices. There's also a bottleneck at the refineries that turn crude oil into gasoline. They just can't keep up with demand. Not to mention, a number of refineries in North America have shut down in the last few years.

DE HAAN: We're talking about a loss of refining capacity, and that has crippled the ability for refineries to meet demand that has resurged as the economy continues to gain momentum post-COVID.

CRONIN: And gas prices are surging just as we're heading into summer when more people take to the road. Back at the gas station in Harlem, Kim Boader says she's cutting back on her driving.

KIM BOADER: I would never prioritize gas over food (laughter). We go, you know, public transportation with that.

CRONIN: As for summer vacation, she loves driving her kids to the south. But those trips are on hold for now.

BOADER: Probably not this summer or next summer if they don't get it together with these gas prices.

CRONIN: Boader might be right to brace herself, with little relief for gas prices in sight.

Brittany Cronin, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF DIRTWIRE'S "SAILING THE SOLAR FLARES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.