I have been a bit nonplussed by the yelling over gas prices recently.
Sure, I am not particularly happy about how high the prices are, and I have no issue with linking Obama’s policies with current prices. But let’s make some fair comparisons, shall we?
Here’s a nice post with multiple graphs, but I will pull out two graphs:
Nominal and inflation-adjusted gas prices, plus the inflation index:
Historical gas prices in 1919 dollars:
So yes, even with adjusting for inflation, the cost of gas has increased greatly over the past decade.
Here’s a different data set. In my current day job I have a very long commute, and have to fill up my tank 2-3 times a week. I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of how much gas costs — and I go to the same gas station over 90% of the time (it having the lowest prices that I know of, and is convenient, right off my commute).
The spikes in prices you see are when I couldn’t get to my preferred gas station. But you’ll see that we’re just getting back to the same level of gas prices as existed last year (non-inflation-adjusted). There is a well-known seasonal aspect to gas prices in the U.S., and what we’ve seen over the past year reflects that a little.
In any case, even with the adjusted numbers, we can see that gas prices now are indeed at a high in a real sense, but that the price climb started before Obama entered office. When we look at the historical record, we can compare against the relatively high gas prices in the late 1970s, as well as back to 1919, when our economy wasn’t so gas-based.
I will not pretend to be an expert in energy or petroleum, but I do know about numbers and misusing them. (Yes, we can quibble about measures of inflation, but I’d rather not get lost in those weeds right now.) Arguments can still be made regarding prices, but it’s best to be working off proper comparisons.