The Ultra-Interesting History of Gasoline Prices

Have you ever wondered about the origins of gasoline and its ever-changing prices? Most people don't think twice about gas, other than when they need to fill up their car. Although the history of gasoline prices may not be quite that interesting, we'll give those who are curious the rundown on fuel costs from the 1950s to present day.

The Use of Modern Gasoline Dates Back to The 1800s

The very first gasoline pump was manufactured in Fort Wayne, Indiana in September of 1885. The pump was initially used for tractors, but it wasn't before long that the pump would change how gasoline filled our cars. There's not much, if any, data that discusses gasoline prices from the late 1800s to the 1950s, but it's a fair guess to say that it was quite a bit cheaper than it is today.

Gasoline Prices of The 1950s

During the 1950s, gasoline prices were more regularly recorded. Gas averaged around 26 cents per gallon in 1950, and it rose about 1 penny per year through 1957. Then, through 1969, gas only increased a total of 3.8 cents. Over the course of 12 years, prices didn't even increase a nickel.
These days, you're lucky to go 12 hours without gas prices spiking at the pump. But as the story goes, the gasoline industry was about to drastically change.

The Big Price Spike of The 1970s

By 1974, gasoline rose to 53 cents per gallon-a 48% increase in 5 years. This is due to the Clean Air Act that was passed and introduced in 1974. The law required automobile makers and gas stations to meet an 87-octane standard, which limited lead to 4.0 grams per gallon. At the time, gasoline contained a lot of lead and it was greatly polluting our country's air.
Since lead was reduced from gasoline, oil refineries needed more money to produce automotive fuel.
In addition, oil supplies became tight during the Arab-Israeli War, which issued an oil embargo against the US. In turn, this only caused the price of gasoline to increase.

Steady in The 80s and 90s

Gasoline prices stayed relatively stable between 1982 and 1999. There were fluctuations, but the increases hardly ever surpassed 25 cents. The average price of gas in 1999 was $1.16, and it was actually cheaper than the average price in 1981, which was $1.19.

Prices Soar in The 2000s

History was made with gasoline prices during the 2000s and 2010s. Gas prices hit $3.38 per gallon in 2005, and dropped to $2.57 per gallon in 2006. Prices have been all over the map since then, and most days it seems like we never know what cost to expect at the pump.

Will Gasoline Prices Ever Balance Out?

As oil production has peaked worldwide and the United States is at war, it's unlikely the gasoline prices will ever balance out. We might see dips where oil is relatively cheap, but it's sure to go back up again in time. We've likely had our hay day in terms of cheap gas prices, and unfortunately we will continue to experience pain at the pump for many years to come.

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