Californians filling up their cars on Friday winced at the spiraling cost of gasoline, but largely shrugged as residents of the state that has long had the highest gas prices in the United States.

California drivers are paying an average of more than $5 for a gallon ($1.34 per liter), according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), up more than a third from a year ago, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine sends world oil prices rocketing.

"It's going to affect the prices," Mike Hernandez told AFP.

"I'm not really into politics or anything like that, but now that this thing is going on between Russia and Ukraine, it's just that sad."

Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of neighboring Ukraine has sent financial markets into meltdown.

Prices for crude oil -- the raw material for gasoline -- have been hit hard, and are up well above $110 a barrel, with players fretting about the impact on Russian supplies, as sanctions choke Moscow off from the global economy.

While all countries have access to the same gasoline, subsidies or taxes imposed locally mean the ultimate cost to consumers varies wildly.

For example, in oil-producing Nigeria, which subsidizes fuel, the official price is 40 US cents per liter.

In Hong Kong, drivers were already paying US$2.50 per liter in 2021, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

On average, Americans pay around $1 per liter, according to the AAA, and even California's $1.34 per liter is well below the prices paid by Europeans.

Average petrol prices in California are just above $5 per gallon ($1.34 per litre), but some gas stations have much higherr prices
Average petrol prices in California are just above $5 per gallon ($1.34 per litre), but some gas stations have much higherr prices AFP / Frederic J. BROWN

"It's expensive but it's always been more expensive here in California, so I guess we're used to it," said Harry Lee, as he fueled up on the way to work in Los Angeles on Friday.

"I'll be happy when it goes down but so far it doesn't impact me too much," he added.

"My cousin, who drives for Uber here in LA, is complaining a lot though. I guess it can be hard on him if gas remains at this level for too long."

California's relatively high gas prices are the result of state taxes, as well as stricter refining rules that require specific fuel formulae intended to reduce air pollution in the hot summer months.

While many drivers have grumbled about seeing pump prices rise almost daily, some say they are prepared to put up with the extra cost because of the pictures of the war in Ukraine they are seeing on the news.

"I would rather have high gas prices here than an authoritarian regime in the Ukraine," said Los Angeles resident Jacqueline St-Anne.

"If we have to suffer with a little bit of inflation and gas prices for a while to assure that such a wonderful country as Ukraine has an opportunity to develop its democracy, we should do that."

For others, there is a simple solution to paying through the nose.

"I just bought a Tesla," said Matthew Reynl.

"That's my solution to the gas prices going up."