In the midst of Russia’s war on Ukraine and sanctions against Russia levied by the United States and the European Union, gas prices are climbing. On March 6, 2022, the national average price of gas per gallon surpassed $4.00, inching closer by the day to topping the highest-recorded average of $4.114 set in 2008, according to AAA. Some industry experts project the national average to remain above $4.00 until November 2022.
For nearly every mile driven, American consumers find themselves inextricably linked to a complex global commodity that can have a major impact on the cost of cruising: fuel. But that may change in the coming decades. With electric vehicles becoming more common as the auto industry shifts to reduce its high impact on climate change, other sectors will be affected. In just a few decades, the new car market will look radically different than it does today, and the gas and oil industries, whose fortunes are tied to the auto industry, will also experience radical change.
Most of the time, both the highs and the lows of gas prices are out of drivers’ hands. During the Arab-Israeli War in 1973, Arab oil manufacturers banned exports to the U.S. due to their support of Israel, leading to a gas shortage and sky-high prices. In recent years, an increase in demand for oil in developing economies alongside an expansion in production from countries (like the U.S.) that once imported most of their oil, led to a sharp drop in oil prices. In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, stay-at-home orders caused oil prices to crater as demand for oil bottomed out.
To find out more about how the price of gas changed throughout the years, Stacker ran the numbers on the cost of a gallon of gasoline for each of the last 84 years. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (last updated in August 2021), we analyzed the average price for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline from 1976 to 2021 along with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for unleaded regular gasoline from 1937 to 1976, including the absolute and inflation-adjusted prices for each year.
Read on to explore the cost of gas over time and rediscover just how much a gallon was when you were born.