Mar 6, 2023 - News

Ohio's gas price roller coaster

Gas prices in the <b style='text-decoration: underline; text-underline-position: under; color: #ff7900;'>Columbus</b> metro area and the <b style='text-decoration: underline; text-underline-position: under; color: #858585;'>U.S.</b>
Data: GasBuddy; Note: Price as of the first of each month; Chart: Axios Visuals

Local drivers are not feeling the same pain at the pump that they were last summer.

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 gas prices.

State of play: Central Ohio drivers spent an average of $3.31 per gallon of gas in February, per GasBuddy data — almost identical to the price a year ago.

  • The price of gas has remained above $3 a gallon for that full year.

Between the lines: Gas prices remain a political football.

  • When they're high, many Americans tend to blame whoever's sitting in the Oval Office — even though, as Axios' Andrew Freedman reports, the president lacks significant control over the cost of commodities priced on global markets.

Thankfully, prices across the country are down from the major spike seen last summer.

  • Our region's prices were a tad lower in February than the national average of $3.40, which is down 6% year over year.

Yes, but: These 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.

Reality check: As Axios What's Next's Joann Muller recently found, charging up an EV isn't always significantly cheaper than filling a tank with gas — especially on lengthy road trips.

  • And drivers of plug-in EVs are still on the hook for Ohio's annual registration fees of $200.

Of note: Contributing to our gas prices is a 38.5-cent tax on every gallon of gas pumped, which pays for maintaining roads and bridges.

  • It's one of the steepest gas tax rates in the U.S., and some lawmakers have proposed in recent years to lower or suspend it entirely.

What we're watching: Lawmakers might try again this year, as members debate a new transportation budget bill.

  • An initial budget passed by the Ohio House of Representatives has already sought to cut the state's plug-in EV registration fee in half.

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