Gas Prices Not At Record High — and Proposed Solutions Wouldn’t Lower Them

Gasoline prices have become a political hot potato in this election season, but most analysts agree there is very little substance behind the sound and fury. Current gas prices, hovering around $2 per gallon, do not constitute a “record high.” Adjusted for inflation, prices are below the historical average of $2.07 per gallon; for comparison, consider that in 1981 consumers paid an inflation-adjusted $2.87. Americans pay half or less what consumers pay in other countries (e.g., $6 in the U.K.), and they pay only a fraction of petroleum’s real price. Invisible to U.S. consumers at the pump are military expenses to protect Middle East oil sources, health costs associated with auto emissions, and the price of preventing or repairing the environmental damage cars wreak. Furthermore, analysts generally agree that neither Bush’s proposal (more refineries, more domestic drilling) nor Kerry’s (cap the strategic oil reserve, invest in renewables) will have much effect on gas prices in the short-term. Energy is a vital long-term issue — gas prices, not so much.