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Expand chart
Data: EIA; Chart: Axios Visuals

A speech Friday by Esther George, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, offers an interesting high-level look at the economic influence of gasoline prices and why it may never be the same.

The big picture: Gasoline prices account for a smaller share of household spending than they once did — about 4% in the 1980s to roughly 2% last year, though it's much higher for low-income families.

The intrigue: The pandemic is changing the picture even more. Per George, "The COVID-19 shock could further loosen the grip of gasoline prices on consumers’ budgets and reduce the already lowered sensitivity of consumption to changes in the price at the pump."

How it works: Gasoline demand plummeted when commuting went way down due to working from home and job losses, and while there's been some revival, it's still below pre-pandemic levels.

What's next: "One thing that seems unlikely to ever bounce back fully is the amount of commuting," she said.

  • "With many workplaces offering, or likely to offer, increased workplace flexibility, not only is gasoline demand likely to be lower, but it is also likely to be more elastic."

Go deeper

Jan 14, 2021 - Health

Drug companies keep raising prices

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

More than 100 pharmaceutical companies raised prices on over 600 drugs at the beginning of the new year, according to a new report from the advocacy group Patients for Affordable Drugs.

The big picture: Millions of people have lost their health insurance because of the pandemic, and uninsured patients must often pay the full sticker price for prescription drugs.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

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