Brent crude breaks $120 a barrel as gas prices soar

·2 min read

Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, has surpassed $120 a barrel, reaching a two-month high as gasoline and diesel fuel prices continue to rise.

The U.S. oil benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, also rose, reaching more than $116 a barrel.

The price spike comes at a time when demand in the United States is expected to rise with the start of the summer driving season and European leaders trying to reach agreement on a Russian oil embargo.

The last time Brent crude breached $120 a barrel was in late March, shortly before President Biden authorized the release of 1 million barrels a day for a period of six months from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

That move sent the price of Brent to as low as $98 a barrel in early April, but it has since climbed back to well over $100 a barrel.

European leaders are meeting in Brussels Monday and Tuesday to negotiate a Russian oil embargo, but the talks are being held up by Hungary, a major consumer of Russian oil.

Biden signed an executive order in March banning the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal, which has contributed to higher energy prices.

The national average gas price has reached $4.62 a gallon, according to AAA. The average gas price was $3.00 a gallon a year ago.

Economists have attributed rising prices to rising demand and limited supply caused by loosening COVID-19 restrictions in China, the start of the U.S. driving season and disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine.

OPEC+, the oil cartel, is scheduled to meet Thursday, but so far has done little to boost production to keep oil prices in check. The group agreed to a modest production increase last month.

Brent is still well below its all-time high of $147.50.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has convened bipartisan meetings on Capitol Hill in recent weeks in hopes of coming up with a package to spur domestic oil and natural gas production.

Manchin told The Hill last Thursday that the group continues to meet.

“Still talking. We’re just trying to get everybody on the same page. Everybody has to understand how complex it is and what we’re talking about,” he said. “I don’t have a timetable.”

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