Monday, February 26, 2024

In 2024, we're less likely to see a 2022-style spike in gas prices

This week marks the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a move that quickly resulted in a significant price spike at the pump for Americans for much of the rest of 2022, and led to overall inflation rising by an annual rate of nearly 11% over the next 4 months.

Right before the Russians rolled across the Ukrainian border, the average nationwide gas price was already on the rise, and was sitting at $3.53 a gallon. After peaking at over $5 a gallon in mid-June, prices fell back to their pre-invasion levels. And today, we’re paying less for gas than we were in February 2022.

But I went a little further back into the history of US gas prices on or near February 20 (that’s the approximate midpoint over the years), and what you may not realize is that we are paying less for gasoline today than we were 10 years ago. And that the lowest pump prices came in February 2016, 9 months before Donald Trump was elected president.

In addition, next month marks the four-year anniversary of COVID-19 becoming a worldwide pandemic, and many American businesses shutting down to try to contain the virus, and work-from-home becoming more common in this country. So this also means February 2024 is a good time to compare the pre-COVID gas usage numbers of February 2020, and see how things have changed today.

What you’ll find is that not only were Americans using the most gas when it was cheapest in 2016, but we also saw Americans react to the price spike on 2022 by cutting back on their consumption at the same time that the Biden Administration started up additional incentives for alternative fuels and/or electric vehicles.

So today, even with millions more jobs than we had in the 2010s, we are using less gas in February than at any time in the last decade, save for the COVID-wracked time of February 2021.

At the same time, the US is pumping more oil than at any time in our history. Which helps explain why gasoline supplies are significantly more plentiful than they were 2 years ago. And gas is more available in America than in any of the three Februaries that happened before COVID became a thing.

And despite this easily-accessible information, check out the BS Republicans are still trying to sell to voters.

Look, I get that taking a ride on the Trump Train and being addicted to Koch makes a guy say some stupid stuff, but this statement by insurrectionist Representative Fitzgerald couldn’t be more off-base in February 2024.

Heck, the rise in February gas prices was higher in the 4 years before COVID than it’s been in the 4 years since then!

% Change in gas prices
Feb 2016 - Feb 2020 +40.5%
Feb 2020 – Feb 2024 +34.6%

Think that reality is being told to low info voters or MAGA-World? Or that we were paying more for a gallon of gas a decade ago (and in 2013, and in 2012, and in 2011) than we are today? BEFORE we account for inflation.

I’d argue that due to moves encouraged by the Biden Administration and related awareness and changes by American workers and consumers, we’re less vulnerable now to gas price spikes due to foreign events and/or manipulation than we were in the Trump years. And gas is more available to Americans in 2024 due to moves and adjustments like this.

This is why I’m not sweating the recent rise in gas prices. Some of this seems to be seasonally-related (in non-COVID years, gas prices generally rise between January and mid-Summer, and fall back after that), and any oil price rises we may have in 2024 would likely be trader and speculation-driven over actual supply and demand.

That doesn’t mean we should be complacent about the situation, but it does mean we need to be telling this truth, and getting out ahead of any monkey business that oil oligarchs (both foreign and domestic) may try to attempt in the next 8 ½ months. We’re fine on gas prices and the supply-and-demand situation for energy, unless someone manipulates the market and screws it up for the rest of us.

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