The current national average per gallon of gas, $3.65, probably doesn’t seem all that cheap. Not compared to the beginning of the year, when prices were 10% cheaper. And especially not compared to a few years ago, when gas sold for under $2. So some drivers are surprised—and a bit skeptical—to hear that prices are significantly less than a year ago at this time.
According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, the national average for a gallon of regular was $3.65 as of Wednesday. Exactly one year prior, the average measured $3.898, about 25¢ more.
What’s more, in recent weeks, gas prices have declined all over the U.S. Gas prices in Kentucky dropped 12¢ over the last month, matching the one-month decline nationally. In states such as Idaho, gas prices are 30¢ less than a year ago.
Few drivers are overjoyed with gas prices lately, however. Some don’t even seem to believe that they are paying less than a year ago. This week, the price-tracking service GasBuddy posted on Facebook a current list of gas prices in 166 U.S. cities, next to a list of prices from a year ago—and in every single case, prices were cheaper in 2013. Several commenters disputed the data, swearing that they were paying less 12 months ago. Many others griped that the prices are “still way too high,” regardless of whether or not there was a time when they were higher. The feeling is that even if prices are cheaper than last year, that doesn’t mean they’re cheap.
What’s more, powerful players in the gasoline business say that even though gas prices have declined recently, the prices at the pump should be much cheaper. Last week, the DesMoines Register reported that oil company advocates are blaming the ethanol industry for unnecessarily high gas prices. Meanwhile, supporters of ethanol and other renewable fuels are putting the blame on Big Oil:
Renewable energy people want an investigation of oil company pricing. The oil companies want Congress to repeal the six-year-old Renewable Fuel Standard that is the basis for demand for ethanol and biofuels. “We call on Congress to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard, which is helping to drive up gasoline prices,” said Bob Greco, director of downstream operations for the American Petroleum Institute.
Amid all the finger pointing, and in light of years of gas prices rising and falling with little rhyme, reason, or predictability, it’s understandable that American consumers feel like they’re being messed with. Accordingly, drivers aren’t going to get too worked up when gas prices rise, and they’re not going to get too excited when gas prices decline. It also seems like they’re not going to believe much of anything that people in the fuel business tell them. Wisely so.