In early October 2022, we received inquiries from readers who asked if it is true that the national average for gas prices dropped under $2 per gallon during U.S. President Donald Trump's term of office. After reviewing credible data, we can confirm that this is true.
$1.84 Per Gallon in April 2020
Figures on the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) website showed an average of $1.84 per gallon for regular fuel in April 2020. In the same month, The Associated Press also reported a similar price of $1.86, citing data from AAA. Trump was in office from January 2017 through January 2021.
Our readers were curious about this matter in October 2022, apparently due to rising gas prices happening at the time. We found a number of tweets that claimed that gas prices were once under $2 when Trump was in office. These tweets were posted just days before we published this fact check:
All of these tweets were accurate in that the national average of gas prices for regular fuel was under $2 for a short period of time in 2020.
Why Did Gas Prices Drop in 2020?
The implication is that the Trump administration was responsible for those lower gas prices, but as The Associated Press reported in May 2021, the reason why gas prices dipped so low in early 2020 was due to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., which led to an unprecedented drop in demand for fuel:
Gasoline prices didn’t fall [in 2020] because of the Trump administration, as Trump often claims; they plunged because of the coronavirus forcing people to abandon their offices, schools, business trips and vacations.
Underscoring the connection to the pandemic shutdown, U.S. gas prices were at their lowest in April 2020 when people were staying home most but have mostly risen since then, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration, even when Trump was still in office.
The last time gas prices dropped below $2 prior to 2020 was in early 2016, the final year of President Barack Obama's second term, according to data from the EIA.
Why Did Gas Prices Rise in 2021 and 2022?
EIA data also showed that, in June 2022, under President Joe Biden, gas prices at one point climbed to a $5 national average. The Associated Press reported, "While this is the first time breaking the $5 barrier, it’s still not a record when inflation is taken into account. Gas peaked at $4.11 a gallon in July 2008, which would be equal to about $5.40 a gallon today."
We previously reported on the variety of reasons for higher gas prices in 2021 and 2022. Those factors included Russia's invasion of Ukraine, "a rapid and unexpected bounce-back in demand" following the first year of the pandemic, the forced shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline after a ransomware attack, and "a loss of refining capacity in California and Ohio," among other possible reasons.
As of this writing (Oct. 12, 2022), AAA reported that the average national gas price in the U.S. was $3.92 per gallon.
Bussewitz, Cathy. “A Rare Intervention by the US Helped Seal Crucial OPEC Deal.” The Associated Press, 14 Apr. 2020, https://apnews.com/article/cff36abc3413bfe5e8626596adf140f5.
“Colonial Pipeline Cyber Incident.” Energy.Gov, May 2021, https://www.energy.gov/ceser/colonial-pipeline-cyber-incident.
Evon, Dan. “‘A Whole Lot of Truth’ (and Some Misleading Info) About Gas Prices.” Snopes.com, 24 June 2022, https://www.snopes.com/news/2022/06/24/whole-lot-of-truth-gas-prices/.
Isidore, Chris. “Why US Gas Prices Are at a Record, and Why They’ll Stay High for a Long Time.” CNN, 6 June 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/06/energy/record-gas-prices-causes/index.html.
Rugaber, Christopher, and Hope Yen. “AP Fact Check: House GOP Falsely Blames Biden for Gas Prices.” The Associated Press, 25 May 2021, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-lifestyle-health-coronavirus-pandemic-prices-084a908ac2850e8690a822d6c7f56301.
Simonetti, Isabella. “Gas Prices in U.S. Rise for a Second Week After Refineries Shut Down.” The New York Times, 7 Oct. 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/07/business/gas-prices-rising.html.
“U.S. Regular All Formulations Retail Gasoline Prices (Dollars per Gallon).” U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), https://www.eia.gov/index.php.