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Press: The price of gas is the price of freedom

The Hill logo The Hill 3/15/2022 Bill Press, opinion contributor
Gas prices on a blue board are seen at a Los Angeles gas station with cars passing by © Getty Images Gas prices on a blue board are seen at a Los Angeles gas station with cars passing by

Here's a quiz: What's the greatest danger facing Americans today? The war in Ukraine? A new COVID-19 variant? Book banning in dozens of states? Open threats of violence by white supremacists?

Answer: None of the above. Watch any newscast. Read any newspaper. Listen to any talk show. They all trumpet the same thing: The greatest danger for Americans today is - the price of gas.

Don't stop there. Do what I did this week. Pull up "gas prices" on your favorite search engine: Google, Safari, Bing or whatever. Trust me. All you will find are articles claiming that the price of a gallon of gas is higher than ever before - blaming it all on the war in Ukraine or President Biden or both - followed by scores of leads on where to "find cheap gas" at a station near you. Nowhere will you find any in-depth analysis of why gas prices are so high and how long they may so remain.

It's time to set the record straight about gas prices. First, as difficult as it may be for some people to believe, there's nothing in the Constitution that says the price of gas must never exceed $2 per gallon. In fact, compared to other countries, we're actually getting a bargain at the pump. As of March 13, the average price of gas here had soared to $4.43. That's still far below what drivers were paying, even before the Ukraine war, in Amsterdam ($6.48), Milan ($5.96) or Stockholm ($5.80). Remember also that a big chunk of the price of gas is federal taxes (18.4 cents per gallon) and state taxes (average 30.6 cents per gallon).


Video: 'It's not price gouging, it's supply and demand': Experts discuss increase in gas prices (WMAZ-TV Macon)

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Second, it's not Biden's fault. In November 2021, Donald Trump told Fox News: "Gas was at - gasoline, $1.83 or $1.86 when I left, a gallon. And now it's $7.70 in California." Which is just another Trump "big lie." According to AAA, the national average for regular gas on Trump's last day in office was $2.39 per gallon. Aside from one remote station in Gorda, Calif., the price of gas in California has never hit $7.70. On March 13, it was $5.74.

Third, gas prices actually started to climb under Trump and continued to climb under Biden. Why? COVID-19! It's that old law of "supply and demand" at work. When COVID-19 hit and people stayed home and stopped commuting, demand for gasoline fell, major producers cut back on production, supply went down and prices started going up. It happens every time. That's especially true when it comes to gasoline prices. The price at the pump depends on the price of a barrel of crude oil, as determined by the global market, not by what any one country does in terms of energy policy.

Which is why, all fears to the contrary, not even cutting off oil imports from Russia will have that negative an impact, certainly not here in the United States, where Russian imports counted for only about 3 percent of our oil and gas supply, compared to 19 percent for France and 30 percent for Germany.

Bottom line. Yes, today's high price of gas is tough on American consumers. But it's only temporary. Analysts predict gas prices will fall to an average $3.30 by December. Meanwhile, it's the least we can do to help Ukraine against Russian President Vladimir Putin. You don't have to like how much more you're paying at the pump, but stop complaining about it. Think of it as the price for freedom.

Press is host of "The Bill Press Pod." He is author of "From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire."

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