Whenever gas prices rise, commentators become theatrical with emotional talk of “pain at the gas pump”. A CNN analyst went further, calling the most recent rise a “slap in the face.”
Slingers of hyperbole might ask Ukrainians currently under vicious bombardment what they would consider “a slap in the face.” The answer should put them to shame.
Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, the price of gas was surging due to pandemic-related supply and demand shifts. With Russia being a major supplier of fossil fuels, the start of the war triggered a further rise in prices. The US decision to ban the import of Russian oil could put additional upward pressure, but not much since Russia supplies only 3% of our crude.
It is gratifying to see that the American people are better than many who deliver the news to them. A new poll from Quinnipiac University finds that 71% of Americans support the US ban even if it triggers another sharp rise in domestic gas prices. They rightly regard the battle of Ukraine as their own.
In the meantime, we must put into perspective how much the price of gasoline really hurts us. We hear time and time again that it is “at an all-time high”. On Tuesday, the price at the pump hit $4.17 a gallon, up from the previous “high” of $4.11 a gallon in July 2008.
Remember that 2008 was almost 14 years ago. Because of inflation, a dollar is now worth less than it was then. It turns out that $4.11 in 2008 had about the same purchasing power as $5.37 today, as measured by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.
Plus, remarkable improvements in fuel efficiency mean we can go further with a gallon. In 2008, my brand new Honda Accord got 26 mpg (combined city/highway driving). A 2022 Accord gets 33 miles per gallon.
Do the math. At recent gas prices, you can go 100 miles in a 2022 Accord for $12.64. Driving the same distance in 2008, my old Accord would have cost about $20.67 in today’s dollars.
Looking at all vehicle types, fuel economy has increased 32% since the 2004 model year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Europe, of course, does not have the luxury of banning Russian fossil fuels, which provide 25% of its oil and 40% of its natural gas. The United States is nearly energy independent, with oil production up 1.6 million barrels per day from a year ago.
Putting these considerations aside, CNN’s Ana Cabrera linked the US ban on Russian oil imports to rising gas prices. She sternly asked Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, “What do you say to the American people?”
Here is what he said: First of all, gas prices were already high. Second, the price of oil is set on the world market. Third, production in the United States is increasing. And let’s cast these words in bronze: “True energy independence… (reduces) reliance on fossil fuels.”
The Americans know that the Ukrainians are fighting for us. If Russian President Vladimir Putin were able to overthrow this country in an easy victory, he would no doubt already be testing the borders of Poland and other NATO countries that the United States has a duty to defend. The sacrifice of the Ukrainian people saves all of us blood and treasure.
Put aside the moral and human catastrophe of Russia looting a peaceful country. Ukrainians are suffering to preserve not only their democracy, but ours. And so paying more for gasoline is the least Americans can do to help them. To our credit, most Americans agree with that.
– Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be contacted at [email protected] To learn more about Froma Harrop and read articles by other creator writers and cartoonists, visit the creators webpage at www.creators.com.