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Gas prices might not be as high as you think

Adjusted for inflation and fuel efficiency, historical prices were actually higher
Screenshot 2022-05-18 at 14-32-25 Weekly Colorado Midgrade Conventional Retail Gasoline Prices (Dollars per Gallon)
This graph tracks historical weekly gas prices going back to 2000, but the price per gallon of midgrade gasoline does not adjust for inflation.

Gas prices continue to hit record highs in the Boulder-Longmont area, along with the rest of the state and country.

AAA reported the average price for regular unleaded gas in the Boulder-Longmont area at $4.08 a gallon and $4.13 a gallon statewide, the highest recorded averages according to their reporting. 

However, when considering efficiency and inflation, the price tag might not seem so high. U.S. inflation is the highest it has been in nearly 40 years, with energy prices rising the most.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration records the weekly midgrade gasoline prices for Colorado, which was $4.41 this week. This is the highest a gallon of gas has been in 22 years of data reported by the agency — without adjusting for inflation.

The previous highest cost for a gallon of gas in Colorado was the week of July 14, 2008, at $4.14 a gallon. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $5.56 a gallon in 2022.

Even in the early 2010s, when Colorado's average gas prices would often tiptoe toward the $4 mark, 2012’s highest gas price adjusted for inflation still beats out current prices at $5.06 a gallon.

Additionally, fuel efficiency should be considered when looking at gas prices. According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency car models in 2021 are getting an average of four more miles per gallon than cars in 2008.

Separating cars out from trucks, that increase in efficiency is even more notable, jumping from 23.9 mpg in 2008 to 31.3 mpg with last year’s models.

Still, gas prices in the Boulder-Longmont area have increased by more than a dollar in the last year, while average wages in Colorado are not keeping up with the record inflation.

With the high cost of crude oil, hovering near $110 a barrel, and the upcoming summer demand, that’s unlikely to change.

“The high cost of oil, the key ingredient in gasoline, is driving these high pump prices for consumers,” AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said in a release. “Even the annual seasonal demand dip for gasoline during the lull between spring break and Memorial Day, which would normally help lower prices, is having no effect this year.”

Amy Golden

About the Author: Amy Golden

I grew up in Colorado Springs and earned a degree in journalism from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
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