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US Gas Prices Dropped in 2020 Because of COVID-19, Not Trump

"The drop in March 2020 had everything to do with a massive drop in demand — nothing else," Patrick De Haan from GasBuddy.com told Snopes.

Published March 26, 2024

 (Xinhua/Gao Lu and Mary Altaffer via Getty Images)
Image Via Xinhua/Gao Lu and Mary Altaffer via Getty Images

On Feb. 21, 2024, a user on X posted a meme showing a photo of a Casey's General Store sign with the regular-grade gas price at $1.19 per gallon. The meme's caption referenced former U.S. President Donald Trump and the upcoming November 2024 election: "March 25, 2020. Remember This In November."

The meme has been reposted by numerous other users on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Truth Social and X.

The same picture was previously shared in another meme with the date of March 30, 2020, ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. At the time, some voters were hoping for a "red wave" of Republican victories. However, that red wave never arrived.

The location where the picture in the meme was captured was not immediately clear. The company on the sign, better known simply as Casey's, has many locations in numerous states. A road sign visible in the bottom-left corner of the photo appeared to read "U.S. 62" for Route 62. 

2020 Gas Prices Drop 'Solely Due to COVID'

While the location where the photo was taken has yet to be confirmed, one aspect of this meme was clear: The dramatic drop in gas prices in March and April of 2020 was due to a dramatic decrease in demand for fuel at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for the website GasBuddy.com.

"The drop in March 2020 had everything to do with a massive drop in demand — nothing else," De Haan told Snopes by email. "Global demand plummeted as COVID spread, leaving countries to restrict movements and for companies to close offices to prevent deaths. Gas prices falling in early 2020 was solely due to COVID, not anything to do with a U.S. president."

GasBuddy.com has previously been cited as a credible source by numerous news organizations and political blogs, including Fox NewsMSNBC, BreitbartCNN, The Daily CallerCBS News, RedStateABC NewsThe Daily Wire and HuffPost. In other words, GasBuddy.com has all the signs of being an established, trusted and nonpartisan source for data and analysis involving the world of fuel prices.

Prices Dropped Worldwide, Not Just in the US

In October 2020 — when Trump was still in office — the nonpartisan U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published a detailed report about the impact the pandemic was having on gas prices. The analysis included the fact the drop in crude oil prices was a global matter and wasn't simply something that occurred only in the U.S.

The International Energy Agency also published much the same, reporting gas prices had dropped "to multi-decade lows across all major gas-consuming regions."

Average Gas Prices Under Trump and Biden

According to weekly data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the national average regular-grade gas price under Trump from January 2017 through January 2021 was around $2.47. The highest regular-grade average gas price under Trump was $2.96 in early May 2018. The lowest average price was $1.77 in late April 2020, when consumer demand for fuel was plummeting with many people staying home and not commuting at the beginning of the pandemic. At the time, prices varied from gas station to gas station, with some dropping just below $1, others going a good bit higher than the average and at least one Casey's landing right at $1.19, as the photo in the meme showed.

Meanwhile, the national average regular-grade gas price during President Joe Biden's administration through March 2024 has been $3.49. The highest average price under Biden was $5.01 in early June 2022. The lowest was $2.39 in his first week in office.

Why Did Gas Rise Above $5 Under Biden?

When regular-grade gas prices rose all the way to an average of $5.01 per gallon in June 2022, some critics blamed Biden.

For credible insight, we turned our attention to an article published by The Associated Press on June 7, 2022. The reporting specifically mentioned one reason for rising prices as being Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, after which Biden announced a ban on Russian oil and even warned the action would cause gas prices to rise. The AP's article also cited Joshua Busby, a professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, who said presidents have "limited leverage over gas prices":

Prices have indeed surged since the beginning of the Biden administration, with the national average currently at $4.82, according to AAA. While critics have blamed the president, experts have pointed to several other reasons for the spike, including higher demand after the easing of pandemic restrictions and the steep price of oil as many buyers refuse to purchase Russian oil due to its invasion of Ukraine.

Joshua Busby, an associate professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote in an email to the AP that beyond releasing oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, U.S. presidents have "limited leverage over gas prices."

"Prices are set by the market," Busby wrote. "If there is a major increase in demand (demand resurgence as worst of pandemic ends) or supply disruption (Ukraine conflict fallout), it's not clear any US President would have many levers to alter that situation in the short run."

De Haan also told Fortune.com in June 2022, "I think the president gets wrongly blamed for most of the increase in gas prices. Much of why we're paying higher prices today has less to do with Biden and more to do with COVID, Russia and other issues." He added: "President Biden could be doing more. But again, he's really just a small piece of the puzzle."

For further reading, the Fortune.com story was also published on Yahoo Finance and features detailed insight regarding gas prices under Biden, as well as more analysis from Jay Hatfield, chief investment officer of Infrastructure Capital Management.

Sources

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Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.