After months of making life more expensive, gas prices are beginning to fall quietly — bringing financial relief to many Americans.
The average nationwide price this week was $4.49 per gallon, after peaking at $5.01 in June. The average gas price is still about $1.30 higher than a year ago, but it has been falling for more than a month now.
This is welcome news for consumers: higher gas prices are not only affecting tankers, but also the price of almost everything else through higher transport costs.
Falling prices are also potentially good news for political and social stability. Because gas prices are so visible — on giant signs across the country — they have an outsized impact on how Americans think things are going, experts say. The mood can extend beyond financial worries.
Think of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which caused gas prices in the West to soar as Europe vowed to stop relying on Russian oil and gas. American and European leaders have worried since the war began that rising gas prices could hurt public support for anti-Russia efforts because people might see the personal cost as too high. So falling gas prices could help maintain public support for Ukraine.
In the past, rising gas prices have hurt incumbent political leaders as well. Sure enough, approval ratings for President Biden and European leaders have fallen as prices for gas and other commodities have risen. Left unchecked, it’s the kind of widespread disapproval that can lead to global political instability and extremism. In Italy, for example, the recent collapse of the government could give way to a takeover by a far-right coalition that includes a political party with neo-fascist roots.
But gas prices also have something deeper than partisan politics or individual political debate: they help dictate public sentiment. As the pandemic has subsided, Americans have hoped for a return to normalcy. But rising gas prices and inflation, along with a rise in violent crime and the war in Ukraine, are instead contributing to a broader sense of chaos and anomie already fueled by Covid. It’s as if Americans have traded some crises for others.
“Is that real?” Caroline McNaney in New Jersey recalled thinking. “I took a job further away from home to make more money and now I feel like I haven’t done anything for myself because the gas is so high.”
So, falling gas prices are providing the kind of respite people have been longing for after a couple of chaotic years.
Why Gasoline Prices Have Fallen
There are several factors behind the good news. Oil and gas production has started the USA and elsewhere, increasing supply. Some people are drive less To avoid high prices, falling demand. Ongoing Covid disruptions, particularly in China, have also played a role; Lockdowns result in fewer people traveling, further reducing global demand for oil and gas.
The process is unfolding slowly — a result of what experts call the “rocket-and-feather” effect: gas prices tend to rise as quickly as a rocket and fall more slowly as a feather. Gas stations raise prices faster and lower prices slower to maximize profit. And while rising gas prices are forcing consumers to make more comparison offers, falling prices are easing the need to do so – and reducing competitive pressures.
With gas prices falling at a slower rate than they’re rising, they still have room to fall further in the coming weeks — to catch up with fallen oil prices, said Christopher Knittel, an MIT economist
And strange as it may sound, a flagging economy could help push gas prices down further. The Federal Reserve recently hiked interest rates, raising the cost of borrowing, to reduce demand and tame inflation. That could lead to more unemployment, but also a slowdown in price increases after months of record inflation.
Beyond a few weeks, the future of gas prices is less certain. “There are still risks out there,” said Rachel Ziemba, an energy expert at the Center for a New American Security.
Among them: More atrocities in Ukraine could further push Europe to stop buying Russian oil and gas. Russia could retaliate against Western sanctions by holding back supplies and curtailing global supplies again. Climate change continues to make oil and gas companies cautious about ramping up production too much. China’s economy could improve and boost demand, especially as Covid restrictions ease.
But for now, falling gas prices are good news in a summer marred by headlines about inflation, war, heatwaves and rising Covid cases.
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This is Peele’s third film, following Us and the politically poignant Get Out, which satirized post-Obama race relations to nightmarish effect. As AA Dowd writes at The Ringer, audiences associate Peele’s name with mind-blowing thrillers much as they did with M. Night Shyamalan in the early 2000s. “What really connects the two,” writes Dowd, “is an affinity for the place where horror, sci-fi, and drama intersect.”
The Times Review: Does “Nope” live up to the hype, our critic asks? Yes indeed.