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Tensions Between Russia, Ukraine Impacts California Gas Prices

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – As tension brews between Russia and Ukraine thousands of miles away, Californians are feeling it, too, but at the gas pump.

"Man, they're too high. Skyrocket, man," said William Davis as he filled up for a trip to San Francisco. 

So what does an international conflict have to do with fuel prices?

Severin Borenstein of UC Berkeley, an expert and researcher on the oil and gasoline market, said it matters when Russia is the third-largest oil producer in the world. An invasion means a disruption to the flow of oil.

"Gas prices have been going up over the last couple weeks as crude oil prices have gone up," he said.

Fuel prices crept up recently as Russia began a military build-up on its border with Ukraine which sparked worry it would escalate to war. The fear fueled global panic before the Kremlin made a move.

Californians already pay the highest prices for fuel in the U.S. If Moscow follows through with its threat, prices will skyrocket but it remains unclear by how much.

"If they don't invade, that risk of invasion has already been baked into the crude oil price to some extent," Borenstein said.

He explained that prices would come down but not as quickly as they rose. The professor estimates it would take several weeks to see a difference at the pump.

AAA reports the national average price for a gallon of gas rose dramatically last week to $3.49 – four cents more than a week prior to that.

In California, the average price for regular unleaded gas is around $4.71.

People are not only hoping for diplomacy in Ukraine, but also lower prices at the pump.

Glory Garvin, a student at Sacramento State, says the fluctuation has been noticeable over the last few weeks.

"I hope it doesn't go up anymore because it's been going up like the past couple weeks," she said

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