Rising gas prices in the Inland Empire are deepening financial struggles for many low-income families.(Photo Cred: Robyn Beck)

Due to increased volatility within oil prices in Southern California, the price per gallon has spiked, resulting in financial hardship for the average individual residing in the Inland Empire.

Since 2022, gas prices in Southern California surged to record highs due to various factors. According to the California Energy Commission, gasoline prices are very sensitive, meaning any shift in supply and demand changes what individuals pay at the pump. The factors that drive gas prices include: Global crude market, Geopolitical issues, isolated refinery market, cleaner fuel blends, environmental program costs, and taxes.

One of the main geopolitical issues affecting gas prices within the nation is the Ukraine – Russia war. The Statista Research Department found that there has been an increase of gas prices by 124% compared to 2018/19 due to the political war crisis. Christopher Murray from Fox Business states that California is the state with the current highest gas prices in the nation with the average gas price being $5.20. Gas prices have spiked 21 cents over the last few months and an average of six cents from last year. The spike in gas prices has affected not only residents within the Inland Empire, but the nation as a whole. 

To empathize with Inland Empire locals, low-income individuals are struggling with higher gas prices. Low-income families are feeling the squeeze as gas prices continue to rise. Many residents rely heavily on their cars to get to work, school, and run errands because public transportation options are limited and often unreliable. For those working multiple jobs or living in areas far from city centers, the jump in gas prices means they have to spend a larger chunk of their already tight budgets on fuel. This leaves them with less money for other spending habits like groceries, going out to eat, shopping for clothes, and purchasing items of interest.

A group of individuals affected by the spike of gas prices are college students. As students worry about tuition costs, textbook purchases, campus fees and the daily commute to school and work, gas prices are only making these financial hardships more intense. Gas prices add stress to the average student, as tuition prices are already high. According to Cal State.Edu, all students enrolled in a CSU campus in California pay the same system wide tuition fee of $5742 per academic year, which narrows down to $264 – $396 per unit a semester. In addition, UOC.edu states that students enrolled in a UC campus pay an average of $14,436. Although financial aid helps many students, these costs are not entirely covered, therefore, resulting in students having to find a job to cover the rest of the costs. For the most part, students are required to commute via car, which adds to the expense of the student.

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