The start of the summer driving season this weekend will also boost demand and add further pressure to prices, as will the annual requirement that gas stations switch over to the more expensive "summer blend" designed to cut down on seasonal smog.
But prices vary greatly at the roughly 150,000 stations nationwide, due in part to varying taxes and fees, and partly due to the supply of fuel from refineries in specific regions.
A repeat of shortages?
High prices notwithstanding, a potential supply shortage of gas looms as perhaps the more serious problem this summer.
But experts aren't worried as much about another malicious hack as they are about a critical shortage of truckers qualified to drive the tankers that deliver gas to stations.
An estimated 20% to 25% of tanker trucks are currently parked due to a lack of drivers, according to National Tank Truck Carriers, the industry's trade group. But even before the pandemic, there was a driver shortage as the industry lost a number of them during the economic slowdown that caused the demand for gas to plunge.
The supply shortage might initially hit only a few small, independent stations. But the worry is that even a handful of stations running dry could spark panic buying, particularly in beach communities and other vacation hot spots.
After all, nervous drivers topping off their tanks was just as significant a cause of the recent shortage as was the Colonial shutdown, Kloza said. And fresh memories of that shortage only make that kind of panic buying more likely, he added.
"I think the propensity for panic among the population is much, much higher than it has been," said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, which tracks gas prices for AAA.
"I think we have to worry about prices, supply and crowd behavior."