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White House Touts Decline in Gas Prices

July 19, 2022 by Dan McCue
(Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday evening released a memo detailing how the average price of gasoline across the U.S. has declined by 50 cents per gallon over the past 34 days — one of the fastest declines in prices at the pump in over a decade.

The memo from outgoing White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield notes that while the dramatic rise in gas prices caused largely by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has gotten wall-to-wall media coverage, “the fall in gas prices has not earned the same reception.”

“Gasoline prices have declined every single day for the past 34 days,” Bedingfield writes. “In fact, just this Sunday, we witnessed the largest single-day decline in national gas prices since 2008.”

The memo goes on to quote fuel industry analyst Patrick De Haan, who said that roughly 20,000 gas stations in over 30 states are now selling gas at $3.99 per gallon or less. 

In his most recent analysis, De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, notes the national average price of gas is down 47.9 cents from a month ago and $1.35 per gallon higher than a year ago. 

The national average price of diesel has also declined, and was down 10.8 cents in the last week and stands at $5.54 per gallon.

“We’ve seen the national average price of gasoline decline for a fifth straight week, with the pace of recent declines accelerating to some of the most significant we’ve seen in years. This trend is likely to reach a sixth straight week, with prices likely to fall again this week. Barring major hurricanes, outages or unexpected disruptions, I forecast the national average to fall to $3.99/gal by mid-August,” De Haan said

As of Tuesday morning, AAA pegged the average price of gas at $4.49 a gallon, down 3 cents from Monday and 20 cents in the past week.

“At current prices, the average American driver will spend about $25/month less on gasoline than they would have if prices had stayed at their June peak,” Bedingfield writes. 

“Economy-wide, that means American drivers are saving around $190 million each day from lower gas prices. And, since gasoline prices affect the prices of other goods and services through transportation costs — including food, both households that drive and households that don’t directly benefit from lower gasoline prices,” Bedingfield says.

The White House notes that at the president’s direction, a record 1 million barrels of oil per day on average are being released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — that amounts to 84 million barrels being released since March.

In addition, the Biden administration has convinced the United States’ allies among petroleum producing nations to release a combined 240 million barrels of oil. 

“If oil prices stay at or below current levels, gas prices will decline further,” Bedingfield writes. “That’s because while oil prices have decreased by about 20% since their June peak, prices at the pump have only fallen about 10% over the same period. And while wholesale gas prices are down by about a dollar per gallon from their June highs, retail gas prices have come down by only 50 cents. 

“At the same time, refiners’ profit margins per gallon of gas were averaging about 90 cents last week — roughly double what’s typical for this time of year,” she continued. “Retailers’ profit margins per gallon of gas averaged around $1.30 last week — more than 50 cents above what’s typical for this time of year.”

“Gas prices have room to fall significantly more, and President Biden is demanding that oil and gas companies quickly bring down the price at the pump when the price of oil drops,” she added.

But while about two-thirds of the memo is a potent defense of the administration’s gas policies, the final third is a pointed rebuke of the media, which Bedingfield accuses of “doing its own version of ‘rockets and feathers — covering the spike, but not the drop’ in gas prices.”

“The 34 day decrease in the price of gas is important news for families across the country,” she writes. “Despite the data, you wouldn’t know gas prices are coming down from watching the evening news or reading the paper.”

The White House surely has.

During the run-up of gas prices earlier this summer, the memo notes, there was intense media coverage of the price of gas. 

In the first half of June, as gas prices rose, there were 2,987 headlines including the phrase “gas prices,” Bedingfield says. 

“Network evening news broadcasts … beat the drums about rising gas prices about 70 times in that same period. Many of those broadcasts gave airtime to Congressional Republicans baselessly placing blame for rising gas prices on President Biden,” she adds.

“Now, as prices are falling, there have been just 1,723 headlines on gas prices. And, evening news broadcasts have mentioned gas prices just over 30 times from July 1 through July 16, and often only in passing,” Bedingfield continues. “As just one example, CBS Evening News aired four segments longer than two minutes about gas prices in the first two weeks of June. By contrast, the fall in prices garnered less than one minute of coverage from July 1 through July 16.”

Of course, few White Houses consistently like their press, but Bedingfield argues “the facts are clear” — gas prices have gone down considerably and will continue to go down for the foreseeable future.

“It’s important progress in giving families more breathing room — saving drivers $25 per month. This is an issue that matters tremendously to American families and coverage should reflect the drop as intensely as it reflected the rise,” she says. 

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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