Mar 7, 2023 - News

Salt Lake City gas prices are among the highest in the nation

Data: GasBuddy; Note: Price as of the 1st of each month; Chart: Axios Visuals

The cost of a gallon of gas in the Salt Lake City metro is creeping up again.

By the numbers: Local drivers spent an average of $3.71 per gallon as of Feb. 1, per GasBuddy data. That's up 10% year over year, and a 13% increase from January.

  • Nationally, gas cost about $3.40/gallon in February — down 6% year over year, but up 2% from January.

Context: Last month, Gov. Spencer Cox (R) said the uptick was due to two closed refineries in Utah and Colorado taking longer than expected to reopen and a boost in demand usually seen in March.

The big picture: Gas prices in western U.S. are among the highest in the nation, per AAA.

Yes, but: Lower prices may disincentivize drivers from switching to more efficient cars, going electric or embracing public transit — all of which can have big environmental benefits.

Why it matters: Nearly 76% of American commuters drive to and from work, meaning they're particularly sensitive to the ebbs and flows of prices at the pump — especially as other basic goods get more expensive.

  • Gas prices are also a political football, rightfully so or not.
  • When they're high, many Americans tend to blame whoever's sitting in the Oval Office — even though, as Axios' Andrew Freedman has reported, the president lacks significant control over the cost of commodities priced on global markets, oil included.

Zoom out: Crude oil prices have fallen over the past year, leading to cheaper automotive gas.

  • A barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude — a common industry benchmark — costs around $76 as of late February, down from about $122 last June.
  • Oil prices spiked last year amid uncertainty over Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the economic sanctions against Russia — a major oil producer.
  • As the fighting drags on, oil markets have largely stabilized, CNN reports.

Reality check: Axios' Joann Muller recently found that charging up an EV isn't always significantly cheaper than filling a tank with gasoline — especially on road trips.

  • Electric cars aren't perfectly clean, either. Mining for the requisite materials can damage local ecosystems, while EVs' environmental benefit is lessened if they're charged with "dirty power" from, say, a coal plant.

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