Gasoline prices remained unchanged for the second week Thursday in Santa Barbara County, and although they were the highest prices ever to start a new year, they still fall nine cents below the record price of $4.70 set June 21, 2008, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Weekend Gas Watch.

The average price for self-serve regular gas as of 9 a.m. in the Santa Maria-Lompoc-Santa Barbara market held at $4.61 — the same price as that in the Riverside market, the Auto Club said.

In fact, gas prices remained unchanged in every Southern California market, with the highest average of $4.68 reported in the Los Angeles-Long Beach market, followed by Ventura at $4.67, Orange County at $4.65, San Bernardino at $4.64 and San Diego at $4.63.

“Southern California drivers started the new year paying the highest average price ever in the region for January; the statewide average today being 30 percent higher than a year ago when it was $3.26 per gallon,” Auto Club spokesman Jeffrey Spring said.

“Oil prices are climbing again due civil unrest in a couple of oil producing countries, but that impact seems to be tempered by concerns about what the Omicron variant of COVID may do to gasoline demand.”

Social media posts have blamed rising gas prices on President Joe Biden canceling the Keystone XL pipeline border crossing permit a year ago, but gas price analysts said that had no impact because the pipeline wouldn’t have become operational for years.

Analysts say the rising prices are a matter of increasing global demand as nations recover from the pandemic and a supply system that’s been slower to respond.

Biden tried to address the cost by releasing a record 50 million barrels of oil released from America’s strategic reserve in November, and the U.S. Energy and Information Administration predicts gas prices will fall nationwide in 2022.

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