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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When gas prices spike, we argue.
It’s the current president’s fault. It’s the previous president’s fault. It’s about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and on and on.
Now Yahoo! Finance columnist Rick Newman suggests that politics and war aren’t the problems, but simple economics are.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ever since the first major oil fields were discovered at the start of the 20th century, the world has been on a never-ending hunt to see where else black gold might be hiding. Monetizing seepage areas goes back even further. But with global oil demand having dissipated on account of the pandemic, there’s little reason to spend cash on additional procurement.
Combine that with the green movement doing everything it can to convince governments there’s only one ethical way to handle energy, and we’re likely to be moving into an era where fossil fuels sell for less but cost more to harvest/utilize thanks to carbon emission regulations.
This has left oil companies pondering the true value of seeking new sources of oil, with some having already decided there’s no point.
While OPEC member states and other oil-producing counties have signed a pact to stem the flow of crude by 10 million barrels a day and hopefully rein in the current price-crashing glut, the situation remains bleak for oil producers around the world. On Monday, May futures for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) dropped to the floor, with prices hitting $5 per barrel.
That number shifted into the negative* as the above paragraph was being written. We’re guessing that’s because the end of the May contract forces physical receipts at a time when storage capacities are basically nonexistent. June WTI prices are still riding just below $23 per barrel.
Meanwhile, Brent Crude is hovering around $26 bbl as the OPEC Basket hangs onto $17.73 bbl on a 4-day delay. The assumption is that both will come down, though perhaps not as dramatically as WTI did.
Looking for an added dose of bad news, recently laid-off, pandemic-sheltering readers? Gas prices should be heading northward before long, now that Russia and OPEC member countries have reached a pact to curtail oil production, thus inflating the near-worthless value of a barrel of crude.
That means prices at the pumps won’t be quite as enjoyable in the coming weeks. Maybe it’s time to brave the outside world tonight and fill up that tank — and any other safe, sealable vessel you can get your hands on.