Prices have now fallen for more than a month.
After months of gas prices making life more expensive, they have quietly started to go down — providing financial relief for many Americans.
The average nationwide price this week was $4.49 a gallon, down from a peak of $5.01 in June. The average price of gas is still about $1.30 higher than it was a year ago, but it has now fallen for more than a month.
That is welcome news for consumers: Higher gas prices affect not just people filling their cars but also, through higher transportation costs, the price of almost everything else.
Falling prices are also potentially good news for political and social stability. Because gas prices are so visible — posted on giant signs across the country — they have an outsize impact on how Americans feel things are going, experts say. The sentiment can extend beyond financial concerns.
Consider Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which caused gas prices to spike in the West 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 efforts against Russia, because people could come to see the personal cost as too great. So falling gas prices could help sustain public support for Ukraine.
Historically, rising gas prices have also hurt incumbent political leaders. Sure enough, approval ratings for President Biden and European leaders have fallen as the prices of gas and other goods have increased. Unchecked, it is 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 alliance that includes a political party with neo-fascist roots.
But gas prices also get at something deeper than partisan politics or any individual policy debate: They help dictate the public mood. As the pandemic has waned, Americans have hoped for a return to normal. But rising gas prices and inflation, along with an increase in violent crime and the war in Ukraine, instead feed into a broader sense of chaos and anomie already fueled by Covid. It is as if Americans have traded some crises for others.
“Is this for real?” Caroline McNaney in New Jersey recalled thinking. “I took a job further from home to make more money, and now I feel like I didn’t do anything for myself because gas is so high.”
Falling gas prices, then, offer the kind of reprieve people have wanted after a few chaotic years.
- 1 Why gas prices fell
- 2 What’s next
- 3 For more
- 4 Jan. 6
- 5 The Virus
- 6 War in Ukraine
- 7 Other Big Stories
- 8 Opinions
- 9 A must-see director
- 10 What to Cook
- 11 What to Read
- 12 What to Watch
- 13 Late Night
- 14 Take the News Quiz
- 15 Now Time to Play
Why gas prices fell
Several factors are behind the good news. Oil and gas production has ticked up in the U.S. and elsewhere, increasing supply. Some people are driving less to avoid high prices, decreasing demand. Continued Covid disruptions, particularly in China, have also played a role; lockdowns lead to fewer people traveling, further reducing global demand for oil and gas.
The process is playing out slowly — a result of what experts call the “rocket and feather” effect: Gas prices tend to rise quickly, like a rocket, and fall more slowly, like a feather. Gas stations are quicker to increase prices and slower to reduce them to maximize profits. And while rising gas prices drive consumers to comparison-shop more, falling prices ease the need to do so — reducing competitive pressure.
Since gas prices fall more slowly than they rise, they still have room in the coming weeks to drop further — to catch up with reduced oil prices, said Christopher Knittel, an economist at M.I.T.
And as strange as it may sound, a weakening economy could help further reduce gas prices. The Federal Reserve has recently increased interest rates, raising the cost of borrowing in an effort to pull down demand and tame inflation. That could lead to more unemployment, but also to 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 withholding its shipments, tightening worldwide supply again. Climate change continues to make oil and gas companies cautious about boosting production too much. China’s economy could improve and increase demand, particularly if Covid restrictions ease.
But for now, falling gas prices are one bit of good news during a summer marred by headlines about inflation, war, heat waves and rising Covid cases.
Germany is racing to secure gas supplies before winter and a possible Russian cutoff.
The European Central Bank raised interest rates for the first time in more than a decade.
THE LATEST NEWS
The Jan. 6 committee showed how Donald Trump refused for hours to take any action to stop the Capitol attack, dismissing pleas from White House officials.
Witnesses testified that as the mob stormed the Capitol, members of Mike Pence’s security detail contacted family members to say goodbye.
In outtakes from a video address the day after the riot, Trump refused to say that the election was over.
Last night’s hearing was the last of the summer, but the committee said it would continue its investigation.
Turkey says there’s a deal between Ukraine and Russia to allow the export of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain.
Ukraine says recent strikes on Russian targets, using long-range weapons from the West, prove that it can still win.
Other Big Stories
The House passed a bill protecting the right to contraception. It’s unlikely to pass in the Senate.
A man with a pointed weapon attacked Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for New York governor, at a campaign event. Zeldin wasn’t injured.
California is set to enact a law that would target illegal gun sellers using the bounty system of Texas’ abortion ban.
A former Minneapolis police officer who held down George Floyd’s legs was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Amazon is acquiring One Medical, a chain of primary care clinics.
An An, the oldest giant male panda in captivity, died at 35 — 105 in human years.
To understand the fall of Roe, look at the Supreme Court’s embrace of religious doctrine, Linda Greenhouse writes.
David Brooks asks: Is life a story or a game?
Big City: Maybe we don’t need 15-minute grocery deliveries after all.
Modern Love: A single Muslim woman in her late 20s had never experienced physical intimacy.
Advice from Wirecutter: How to delete your tweets — and why you should.
Lives Lived: Werner Reich was a frightened 16-year-old prisoner at Auschwitz when a fellow inmate, a magician, taught him a card trick. It changed his life. He died at 94.
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
Kyler Murray gets his deal: The Arizona Cardinals quarterback had been clear he desired a new contract, and yesterday the team obliged with a five-year, $230.5 million deal ($160 million guaranteed). It’s the second-highest average annual value ($46.1 million) in N.F.L. history.
Paul Goldschmidt’s quiet ascension: The Cardinals slugger is the overwhelming favorite for National League M.V.P., though you’d never know it judging by the headlines. His teammates call him a “robot.”
Why are the “Three True Outcomes” down? Home runs, walks and strikeouts are all down across baseball. Ken Rosenthal and Eno Sarris dig into the trend that has league executives baffled.
ARTS AND IDEAS
A must-see director
“Nope,” in theaters today, is one of the summer’s feverishly anticipated movies. That’s because the film’s director, Jordan Peele, has become Hollywood’s best bet for a good time.
This is Peele’s third film, after “Us” and the politically pointed “Get Out,” which satirized post-Obama race relations to nightmarish effect. As A.A. Dowd writes at The Ringer, audiences associate Peele’s name with mind-bending thrillers, much as they did with M. Night Shyamalan in the early 2000s. “What really links the two,” Dowd writes, is “an affinity for the place where horror, science fiction, and drama intersect.”
The Times review: Does “Nope” live up to the hype, our critic asks? Yup.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Salt and pepper tofu is crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside.
What to Read
Riku Onda is a fixture of Japanese suspense literature. Her novel “Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight” is a dreamy psychological thriller.
What to Watch
“The Gray Man,” a big-budget action film starring Ryan Gosling, has “a screenplay that is an assault of amusement.”
Stephen Colbert went live after last night’s Jan. 6 hearing.
Take the News Quiz
How well did you keep up with the headlines this week?
Now Time to Play
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P.S. Scott Blumenthal, an editor who has worked on our weekly news quiz, is leaving The Times to explore a career as a chaplain.
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Matthew Cullen, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].