Fuel Prices Are Allegedly Cooling Off

With the last several months delivering record-breaking fuel prices, as society endures what has undoubtedly been the largest spike in energy cost and inflation since the 1970s, everyone has been hoping to catch a break this summer. Some have even gotten theirs. While things are still looking exceptionally bleak in the long term, the United States appears to be enjoying a modest reprieve.

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White House May Propose Gas Tax Holiday [Updated]

National fuel prices are currently averaging right around $5.00 per gallon in the United States. However, there are plenty of states with stations listing gasoline well above $6.00 per gallon with diesel being driven even higher. This has started to wreak havoc on the trucking industry, which is now seeing companies pausing shipments to renegotiate contracts, and infuriated consumers who remember a gallon of gas being $2.17 during the summer of 2020.

Earlier this year, Congress and the White House suggested suspending the federal fuel tax to alleviate the financial burden. But the notion was walked back, as prices were relatively low at the time (roughly $3.50 per gallon) and criticisms swelled that this simply exchanged one problem for another. Four months later and things are looking rather desperate, with the Biden administration revisiting the premise of pausing fuel tax to help soften the blow of record-breaking prices at the pump.

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Black Market Gasoline Now Available On West Coast

Now that fuel prices are approaching levels you probably never thought you’d see in your lifetime, black-market gasoline has become a thing. Local reports coming out of Nevada are claiming that thieves have begun loading up trucks with stolen gas so they can sell it at a discount. Considering the average price per gallon now exceeds $5.50 for the region, it’s easy to see why some people might be willing to roll the dice and buy discounted fuel of an unknown origin.

But the most lucrative scheme is to transport stolen gas into California, where the prices exceed $6.30 across the state. Here, thieves can sell their ill-gotten petroleum at broader margins. But it takes a special kind of vehicle and a little planning not to blow the additional profit on the trip itself. Tankers aren’t exactly easy to come by and are hardly the least-suspicious way to haul around stolen fuel, so thieves are modifying trucks and vans that can pass as light-duty vehicles.

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Gas War: Republican States Sue EPA Over Californian Standards

Last week, a group of Republican attorneys general decided to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision to reinstate the waiver allowing California to set its own limitations on exhaust gasses and zero-emission vehicle mandates that would exceed federal standards.

The agency approved the waiver after it had been eliminated as part of the Trump administration’s fuel rollback on the grounds that it would create a schism within the industry by forcing automakers to produce vehicles that catered to the Californian market at the expense of products that might be appreciated in other parts of the country. However, Joe Biden’s EPA sees things differently and has aligned itself with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in giving the state more leeway to govern itself in regard to emissions policing.

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U.S. Government Cancels Oil and Gas Leases Amid Record Fuel Prices

Despite the United States confronting some of the highest energy prices in its history, the Biden administration has canceled oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), national fuel prices are averaging out to a whopping $4.43 per gallon of regular gasoline. Diesel is much higher at $5.56 and is speculated to endure mass shortages in the coming months as reports from the Northeast have indicated there are already seeing record-low inventories. Over the past twelve months, fuel prices have risen by nearly $1.50 per gallon and most market analysts expect rates to continue moving upwards through the summer. Though they’re not all in agreement as to who should be blamed for our current predicament.

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Gas War: EPA Reinstates California's Ability to Set Emission Limits, EV Mandates

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has opted to reinstate California’s ability to set tailpipe rules and zero-emission vehicle mandates that are more rigid than federal standards. After quarreling for years over the Trump administration’s decision to roll back Obama-era fueling standards deemed untenable, the Golden State now has the ability to once again make harder for its citizens by forcing them to purchase the kind of vehicles it feels they should be driving — rather than leaving it up to the individual that’s actually buying the car.

Though it might not matter at this point. While California effectively served as a defensive shield against proposed fueling rollbacks while Trump was in office, the Biden administration strategy is broadly in line with its agenda of making gasoline unappetizing to consumers to ensure a speedy transition to electric vehicles. California doesn’t even want people to have access to gas-powered lawn care equipment. The state has effectively served as a test case for Build Back Better since before the phrase passed through the lips of a single politician.

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Alright, Let's Talk About Fuel Prices and How We Got Here

Fuel prices have, like most other things, become totally ridiculous. In the United States, the average rate for a gallon of gasoline has eclipsed $4.00 for the first time in a decade. Though what’s probably the most alarming is how quickly it happened. Plenty of Americans could still find fuel for under $2.00 a gallon in April of 2020, meaning we’ve seen prices effectively double within two years in the United States. Meanwhile, European nations more accustomed to lofty fuel bills have been sounding the warning bells (especially in regard to diesel) for months.

Despite the issue existing long before Russia invaded Ukraine, the war has become the de facto explanation among politicians for why you had to swap to less-fancy dog food and off-brand soda to keep the truck gassed up. This is also influencing the government’s response to how to handle the present fuel crisis, which looks as if it’ll be getting worse before it gets better. But let’s take a look at how we got here before we dive into what’s being done (or not done) about it.

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Suspending Federal Fuel Tax Pitched By Senate, White House

President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers have suggested ending the federal gas tax until 2023 as a way to offset fuel prices that are nearing record levels and possibly appease some on-the-fence voters ahead of midterm elections. Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) recently pitched the bill in Congress. While the White House has not made any official endorsements, it’s offered tacit support by saying it didn’t want to limit itself in terms of finding new ways of easing the financial burdens Americans are facing during a period of high inflation.

“Every tool is on the table to reduce prices,” White House assistant press secretary Emilie Simons said in regard to a possible gas tax holiday. “The president already announced an historic release of 50 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and all options are on the table looking ahead.”

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Rising Fuel Prices Have Upended the Economy

Unless you’ve spent the last twelve months locked inside your home, then you’re probably dreading the next trip to the gas station. The average price for a gallon of 87 octanes has reached $3.40 in the United States. That’s about 50 percent steeper than it was at the start of 2021 and undoubtedly more than you’re wanting to shell out today. Though one cannot ignore the dizzying rates being advertised outside of British “petroleum parlors” or France’s many “un bordel pour voitures.” Canadians are also forced to endure higher gasoline prices, as the government tends to stack the taxes a little higher and the U.S. dollar tends to be more valuable. At least for now.

All you need to know for the purposes of this article is that fuel prices are up and it’s influencing the economy in some pretty dramatic ways.

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Study: Do EVs Really Cost Less to Run Than Internal Combustion Cars?

With the volume having been turned down on just about every business sector imaginable, automakers have spent most of this year explaining how supply chain shortages are impacting production and making promises about electric vehicles. However, the rhetoric surrounding electrification has gotten so aggressive that it’s fast becoming another contentious issue, leading to vicious arguments as people square up to take sides. Part of this is due to the enterprising way in which zero-emission vehicles are being marketed and subsequently embraced by world leaders that don’t know jack about the manufacturing or the environment. Much of the discourse surrounding electrification (pro or con) lacks nuance and leads to businesses promising whatever they can in an effort to obtain your unquestioning belief.

For example, EVs are frequently promoted as boasting substantially lower operating costs due to there being no reliance on liquid fuel. Though finding the truth actually requires one to make a comparative analysis while taking into account how, where, and what you’re driving. There’s even a new study out from the Anderson Economic Group (AEG) attempting to determine the true savings of swapping to an EV where the researchers ultimately decided gasoline-powered cars were actually easier on the wallet. However, that likewise requires loads of clarifying context and conditional factors.

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We Ran Out of Fuel on the East Coast

With the Colonial Pipeline shut down due to last week’s ransom hacking, the Eastern United States has found itself running out of fuel. The line was shut down on Friday as a precaution and we’ve since learned that it’s not going to be reopened until this weekend — and maybe not even then.

While this has left some of us with fuel prices creeping aggressively toward $3 per gallon, other parts of the East Coast have seen panic buying and legitimate outages. But it’s hardly surprising when you consider the Colonial Pipeline is the country’s largest. Turning off the tap has ramifications and they’re manifesting all across the coast, though the situation appears to be substantially worse in southern states.

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California Governor Demands Investigation Into High Gas Prices

On Tuesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom responded to a new report claiming oil companies have been overcharging customers over social media.

“[California] drivers have paid an average of 30 cents more per gallon. There’s no identifiable evidence to justify that,” Newsom said. “I’m demanding an investigation. If oil companies are engaging in false advertising or price fixing — legal action should be taken.”

With California leading the charge against the federal government’s proposed fuel economy rollback, Newsom’s words are a bit of a faux pas. While we agree that companies should not be engaging in price fixing, California’s high fuel prices are largely its own doing. Newsom’s claims completely ignore this rather obvious fact — calling his ability to effectively negotiate the national fueling fracas into question.

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Short-term Shock: Goldman Sachs Forecasts an Oil Price Spike

While the 2019 fuel forecast calls for temperate prices at the pump, Goldman Sachs claims we could be in for a brief surge this spring.

Global oil production is expected to take a sizable hit next month. Saudi Arabia, along with the rest of OPEC, has been limiting production to prop up prices. Meanwhile, Venezuela is having trouble across the board. The nation’s ongoing political crisis has resulted in a steady decline in oil production since 2013, and U.S. sanctions effectively made doing business with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, an impossibility overnight.

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Study Claims Car Shoppers Don't Care About Swelling Fuel Prices

Average fuel prices in the United States managed to triple between the years of 1999 and and 2012. While we’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy relatively low prices at the pump over the last few years, analysts predict the current spike will continue through the summer.

However, a recent study from Kelley Blue Book suggests most new-vehicle buyers don’t give a flip about it, with consumers claiming the price surge won’t influence their vehicle purchasing decisions in the slightest.

The assumption that the cost of gas will stabilize in the fall could play a factor for some, but many respondents say the price per gallon would have to reach $4 before they became rattled enough to consider swapping to a more economical vehicle.

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Global Gas Prices: Where Do We Fit?

You’ve no doubt noticed that gas prices have been creeping up while 2018 progresses. But North America still has it pretty good, especially the United States. Despite fuel prices creeping up to almost $3.00 per gallon, the U.S. still enjoys cheaper gasoline than most of the Western world. Even Canada, which is currently coasting around $4.45 per gallon, manages to undercut the nightmare that is Europe by a wide margin.

North America as a whole spends more on gas per person then practically everywhere else on the globe, though. An affinity for larger vehicles, combined with more time spent behind the wheel, translates into burning more fuel overall. I suppose one could make the argument that we need cheaper petroleum since we use so much of it — just be ready to have someone call you selfish.

For example, the United Kingdom has prices set around $6.59 for a gallon of that good stuff but the average citizen only uses 69.67 gallons a year. However, the average American turns 429 gallons of gasoline into forward motion.

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  • Bob65688581 "Give me liberty or give me death." Lots of societal choices can be phrased this way. I remember the same debate when seat belts were introduced. We went too far with seat belts - the horrible mice! We used interlocks to ensure compliance. ... ... and then we came back to a reasonable balance. So we have several options: - We can do nothing. Innocent people will continue to die. We will be passive accomplices of those deaths. Our freedom! - We can go overboard, creating more problems than we solve. We're good at this. - We can find solutions that are effective and livable. I vote for doing nothing because FREEDOM...
  • Bob65688581 "Three-row off-road" is an absurdity.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird The hideaway headlamps on these and other Ford vehicles of the era could have issues mostly vacuum related. Usually the vacuum hoses that ran to the actuators would deteriorate. The “coffee can” reservoir which was mounted in the front header was rarely an issue because it was protected from the elements. The other coffee can reservoir used for the HVAC controls and actuators and mounted under the passenger side wheel well had a tendency to rot away. I once replaced one on my 70 Mustang when I noticed that the vents were acting janky. Later model Fords like Fox bodies used a durable plastic globe shaped one. The radio on these 69-70 full-size Fords mounted on the left side of the aircraft style instrument cluster within the drivers touch probably disappointed many young people. “Mom will you change the station?” “Andy Williams is so square”.
  • MichaelBug For me, two issues in particular:1. It can be difficult for me to maintain my lane on a rainy night. Here in southeastern PA, PennDOT's lane markings aren't very reflective. They can be almost impossible to make out when wet.2. Backing out of a parking space in a lot with heavy pedestrian traffic. Oftentimes people will walk right into my blind spot even if I am creeping back with my 4-way flashers blinking. (No backup camera in my '11 Toyota Camry.)Michael B 🙂
  • Tagbert When you publish series like this, could you include links to the previous articles in the series so that we can follow through? Thank you. Edit: now I see a link embedded in the first paragraph that goes to the previous story. It wasn’t clear at first where that link went but now I understand.