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Ukraine crisis not entirely to blame for steeper fuel prices

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BATON ROUGE - The price for a gallon of gas in the capital city continues its daily climb. According to AAA, the average cost for a gallon of regular unleaded gas Thursday in East Baton Rouge parish was $3.53, above the statewide average of $3.48.

Thursday's Baton Rouge average climbed $0.06 overnight and is up $0.20 from one week ago.

Regular unleaded gas at many stations in the capital city, including B-Quik on Perkins Road, rang in at $3.79 per gallon Thursday, a price that's likely to rise again.

"We get a load every day, of gasoline," Justin Alford, an owner of B-Quick and Benny's, said. "So our price is much more volatile. We're having to change [our price] every day. Whereas a smaller station may get a load or two once a week, they may not have the fluctuations that we have."

The high prices that only seem to be getting higher are not just something drivers are having to deal with. This week alone Alford says he's seen wild increases per gallon on his end when buying for the station.

"Our first big increase was about $0.14, I believe that was Monday," Alford said. "Then the following day we got an $0.18 increase. We got a $0.21 increase yesterday. I think we got a $0.06 increase tonight. Diesel was even wilder, that was $0.40 yesterday."

That makes for a jump of about $0.60 per gallon this week. Typically, Alford sees a $0.02 to $0.04 swing day-to-day. Before this week, he considered a big increase to be $0.06 to $0.08 daily.

"Right before or after a hurricane, when the supply is interrupted, we tend to get big swings like this," Alford explained. "But not these kind of swings. This is kind of abnormal for us. We're not used to it."

Add in credit card fees and increasing freight costs to the high fuel costs for stations, and it only means more drivers will have to pay. And these prices that might be sticking around.

"Right now, futures markets are projecting that gasoline prices for consumers will stay at about this level for the next month or so," said Greg Upton, an associate research professor in LSU's Center for Energy Studies.

Upton says while the growing crisis in Ukraine is pushing prices at the pump even higher, much of the high costs were evident before. That's because as the world recovered from the pandemic and demand for oil has returned, production has been slow to do the same.

"Even if this Russian-Ukraine crisis was not occurring right now, we would still likely have upward pressure on oil prices and upward pressure on gasoline prices that consumers are paying for the pump," Upton said.

As prices in Baton Rouge creep closer to the area-record for the average cost per gallon of regular unleaded fuel, set in July 2008 at $3.99, Upton says a $4 price tag is not out of the question.

"The probability of consumers seeing $4 gas in the next week, few weeks coming up, is likely," Upton said. "That could occur."

Any additional increase, Upton says, will likely depend on Russia's ongoing escalation, the impact of international sanctions and the level of energy purchased from Russia.

Neither Upton nor Alford has a crystal ball to predict future prices, meaning, like everyone else, they can only watch and react.

"I hope it levels off," Alford said. "No one really knows. I hope next week is not like this one because that really hurts people in their pockets, that's for sure."

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