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Sticker shock: Gasoline tops $4.17 a gallon, a new record

Gas prices are displayed on a sign at a gas station on March 3, 2022 in Hampshire, Il.
Scott Olson
Getty Images
Gas prices are displayed on a sign at a gas station on March 3, 2022 in Hampshire, Il.

Updated March 8, 2022 at 1:05 PM ET

U.S. gasoline prices set a new national record on Tuesday as global crude prices have surged following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The average cost of a gallon of regular fuel is now $4.173, according to AAA, after jumping 55 cents in the last week alone. That's the highest ever recorded, not accounting for inflation, surpassing the $4.114 high-water mark set in the summer of 2008. (That would be about $5.37 in today's dollars.)

The gains in gasoline prices comes as crude oil prices have surged this week in anticipation the U.S. would ban imports of Russian oil.

The U.S. and its allies have imposed intense financial sanctions on Russia after the country's invasion of Ukraine, but have so far avoided directly targeting Russian energy shipments.

Biden says the ban is necessary

President Biden announced the ban on Tuesday, although European allies are not set to join given that they depend more heavily on Russian energy than the U.S.

Biden acknowledged that the ban in Russian oil imports could further drive up crude and gasoline prices in the U.S. but said it was needed to deal "another powerful blow to Putin's war machine."

"The decision today is not without cost here at home," Biden said. "Putin's war is already hurting American families at the gas pump."

Brent crude, the global benchmark for crude oil, was trading above $130 a barrel as of Tuesday morning. Western Texas Intermediate, the main U.S. benchmark, followed closely behind at $129 a barrel.

Gas prices had already been climbing for months, driven by a fundamental mismatch between global demand for oil – which recovered rapidly from early-pandemic lows – and global supply, which has returned more slowly.

Rising energy costs fuel inflation, which is already at 40-year highs. A recent NPR-Marist survey found that 83% of Americans support financial sanctions on Russia, and 69% say they would continue to support such sanctions even if energy prices rise.

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Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.