Gas is cheaper this year — but that has drawbacks for electric cars
U.S. drivers spent an average of about $3.40 for every gallon of gas in February, per GasBuddy data. That's down 6% year over year, but up 2% from January.
The big picture: Cheaper gas is good news for American consumers, especially commuters.
Yes, but: Lower prices may disincentivize drivers from switching to more efficient cars, going electric, or embracing public transit — all of which can have big environmental benefits.
Why it matters: More than three-quarters of American commuters drive to and from work, meaning they're particularly sensitive to the ebbs and flows of prices at the pump — especially as other basic goods also get more expensive.
Context: Gas prices are also a political football, rightfully so or not.
- When they're high, many Americans tend to blame whoever's sitting in the Oval Office — even though, as Axios' Andrew Freedman has reported, the president lacks significant control over the cost of commodities priced on global markets, oil included.
Driving the news: Crude oil prices have fallen over the past year, leading to cheaper automotive gas.
- A barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude — a common industry benchmark — costs around $76 as of late February, down from about $122 in June 2022.
- Oil prices spiked last year amid uncertainty over Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the economic sanctions against Russia — a major oil producer — that followed.
- While the fighting drags on, oil markets have largely stabilized, as CNN reports.
Zoom in: San Francisco has among the country's highest average gas prices, at $4.76 per gallon last month. (Taxes, regulations, and snags with local refining operations can sometimes lead to higher prices across California.)
- Houston drivers are enjoying some of the cheapest prices nationwide, at just $2.93/gallon.
Reality check: As Axios' Joann Muller recently found, charging up an EV isn't always significantly cheaper than filling a tank with gasoline — especially on road trips.
- Electric cars aren't perfectly clean, either. Mining for the requisite materials can damage local ecosystems, while EVs' environmental benefit is lessened if they're charged with "dirty power" from, say, a coal plant.