Effect of Gas Prices on the US Economy
Gas Price and US Economy – Introduction
Gas is an important source of energy in United States and about 17 percent of energy consumed in the country is obtained from Gas. The Gas or Gasoline is refined from the crude oil and used as a fuel in the automobiles, boats, light trucks, recreational vehicles and other equipment. There are about 168,987 retail serving chains of gasoline in the United States. There are three grades of gasoline in United States which are “regular, mid-grade, and premium”; there is usually a constant difference in the price level of these three grades. (A Primer on Gasoline Prices, n.p.) The usage of gas increases in the season of summer. The price of Gas is very important factor of US economy because the price of certain other goods is affected by the change in the price of Gas. The price of gas is closely linked with the economy of America. Both consumers and the producers are affected by the fluctuation of gas price.
The GDP growth of the country is largely affected by the gas price and the pressure of rise in gas price created economic adjustment problems as a whole. Due to increase in price the growth rate of GDP reduces and when there is reduction in the gas price the economy also steadily develop with high GDP growth. The gas price also effects the decision making of business world. Businessmen make their decisions related to the investment on the groundwork of gas price. If there are expectations that the gas price will go own or go high and the market varies from their expectations then they face loss in their investments. The stability of gas price is necessary for the stability of market because when the price of gas goes up the price of several other commodities like food items etc also goes up as a result of increase in the transportation charges. The cost of production also increases for such goods which are produced in order to export to other countries. The exporters have to either increase the price of their commodities or they have to bear the fall of profit rate.
Demand and Production of Gas in United States
“In 2005, United States refineries produced over 90 percent of the gasoline used in the United States. Less than 40 percent of the crude oil used by U.S. refineries was produced in the United States. About 45 percent of gasoline produced in the United States comes from refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.”(Ask an Energy Expert, n.p.) In the year 2003, United States imported 0.470 million barrels per day from Iraq, 0.205 million barrels per day from Kuwait, 1.724 million barrels per day from Saudi Arabia and 0.010 million barrels per day from United Arab Emirates. The total American oil import of oil from Middle East was 2.409 million barrels per day in 2003.
United States have to go for such big imports because the production of gasoline within the country is very low as compared with its demand. For example is the year 1995 the American drivers used approximately seventeen million more gallons of gasoline a day than the country produced and the difference is cover up by the imports and by the year 2005, the gap had widened significantly to about 36 million. All these facts have contributed towards the rise of the gas price in the United States.
Prices of Gas Varies in Different States of America
The price of gas is different in different states of America. In some states and regions the price is higher than other states. The major reason is the state level tax system but along with that there are certain factors that cause the difference in gas price among states. The Gulf Coast is the major producer and supplier of gas to all parts of United States. The areas which are located at long distance from the Gulf Coast usually have high price level of gas because the gas is either supplied through pipelines or ships to these areas and the transportation price of gas is higher than that of other areas. Due to this reason the gas price goes up as compared with other states.
Whenever there is some work of refinery maintenance either planned or unplanned, there is a need for immediate bidding of available supplies. If the flow of surplus supplies is not well supported by the transportation system then the supplies fail to reach one region from another and as a result the prices in that region remain high. The market environment and market competition is also different in different states. Where there are more suppliers the price may go down as a result of competition between them but in the area where there is only one supplier then the price may remain higher then other states. As the sole distributor can determine the local cost of gas rather keeping it align with average market price.
In some areas there is great awareness about the environmental pollution and in such areas special gasoline is used. So the cost of gasoline increases for the people of that area because they go for using Federal or State-required oxygenated, reformulated, and low-volatility gasoline to reduce the carbon monoxide, smog, and air toxics. The regular gasoline has to be reformulated according to their requirements which make it more costly then the other regions.
Components of Gas Price
There are certain components upon which the retail price of Gas in United States depends. As the gas is refined from the crude oil, the price of crude oil is the main element of gas price and the change in market price of crude oil affect the gas price. Other elements include the cost of refining the crude oil, refinery processing costs, marketing and distribution costs and taxes. The share of different elements in the constitution of gas price is as follows:
The price of crude oil accounts for 45 percent of the total cost.
Federal and state gasoline taxes account for 23 percent
Refining costs account for 22 percent
Marketing and distribution costs account for 10 percent of the total cost of gasoline
The elements involved in the constitution of gas price can be summarized as the external usage of gasoline cost in five primary areas which are “Tax Subsidization of the Oil Industry, Government Program Subsidies, Protection Costs Involved in Oil Shipment and Motor Vehicle Services, Environmental, Health, and Social Costs of Gasoline Usage; and Other Important Externalities of Motor Vehicle Use.” (Kimbrell et al, n.p.)
Among these factors an important one is tax subsidies. The federal government has implemented numerous tax breaks in order to ensure that the domestic companies can also stand in compete with international producers and that gasoline remains cheap for American consumers. The federal tax subsidies includes “the Percentage Depletion Allowance (a subsidy of $784 million to $1 billion per year), the Non conventional Fuel Production Credit ($769 to $900 million), immediate expensing of exploration and development costs ($200 to $255 million), the Enhanced Oil Recovery Credit ($26.3 to $100 million), foreign tax credits ($1.11 to $3.4 billion), foreign income deferrals ($183 to $318 million), and accelerated depreciation allowances ($1.0 to $4.5 billion)” But that is not all the tax subsidies are implemented on the federal basis as well as at state’s level. The income tax of most of the states is based upon the oil firms’ deflated federal tax bill that has resulted in $125 to $323 million per year. Many states have imposed the fuel tax that amounts to a subsidy of $4.8 billion per year to gasoline retailers and users. Finally the taxes subsidies involve with the price of gasoline are $9.1 to $17.8 billion per year. (Kimbrell et al, n.p.)
In order to support the local petroleum producers the government of United States has not only imposed several taxes and subsidies on the imported oil but there is also the imposition of “Program subsidies that support the extraction, production, and use of petroleum and petroleum fuel products total $38 to $114.6 billion each year.” These are certain other program subsidies also which include the “funding of research and development ($200 to $220 million), export financing subsidies ($308.5 to $311.9 million), support from the Army Corps of Engineers ($253.2 to $270 million), the Department of Interior’s Oil Resources Management Programs ($97 to $227 million), and government expenditures on regulatory oversight, pollution cleanup, and liability costs ($1.1 to $1.6 billion)” (Real Price of Gas, n.p.)
Along with the program subsidies there is one more type of subsidy that contributes in making the cost of gasoline. This is called the protection subsidy which is a large portion of the protection services required by petroleum producers and users. The cost of military protection of the countries which are rich in oil resources and the protection of their oil reserves is also an important factor. This cost is around $55 to $96.3 billion per year. A federal government entity Strategic Petroleum Reserve was formed in order to supplement regular oil supplies in the event of disruptions due to military conflict or natural disaster, costs taxpayers an additional $5.7 billion per year. The protection serviced provided to oil industry add $27.2 to $38.2 billion per year. These services are police, fire, and emergency.
An important component of gasoline price is the environmental, health, and social cost. The people of United States pay around $231.7 to $942.9 billion every year for this tax for their gasoline reliance. The air pollution is badly effected by the process of gasoline formation because the internal combustion engines produce such gases and chemicals which are injurious for the environment. The fumes came out from the automobiles also damage the environment and it seems really difficult to calculate this loss in terms of dollars. The researchers give an approximate value of $39 billion per year against the damages in the field of transportation however the loss would be much great almost about $600 billions per year. The cost against the damages occurred resulting from auto emissions is estimated at $29.3 to $542.4 billion per year by CTA.
“Other costs associated with localized air pollution attributable to gasoline-powered automobiles include decreased agricultural yields ($2.1 to $4.2 billion), reduced visibility ($6.1 to $44.5 billion), and damage to buildings and materials ($1.2 to $9.6 billion). Global warming ($3 to $27.5 billion), water pollution ($8.4 to $36.8 billion), noise pollution ($6 to $12 billion), and improper disposal of batteries, tires, engine fluids, and junked cars ($4.4 billion) also add to the environmental consequences wrought by automobiles. The costs of sprawl include: additional environmental degradation (up to $58.4 billion), aesthetic degradation of cultural sites (up to $11.7 billion), social deterioration (up to $58.4 billion), additional municipal costs (up to $53.8 billion), additional transportation costs (up to $145 billion), and the barrier effect ($11.7 to $23.4 billion). Because assessment of the costs of sprawl is somewhat subjective and because study of the topic remains in a nascent stage, the CTA report follows the lead of other researchers in field of transportation cost analysis and reduces the total of the potential cost of sprawl by 25% to 50% to arrive at a total of $163.7 to $245.5 billion per year.” (Real Price of Gas, n.p.)
Along with all the above taxes there is one more element that is part of the cost of gasoline and that is the external cost. The external cost amounts to $191.4 to $474.1 billion per year. This cost includes “travel delays due to road congestion ($46.5 to $174.6 billion), uncompensated damages caused by car accidents ($18.3 to $77.2 billion), subsidized parking ($108.7 to $199.3 billion), and insurance losses due to automobile-related climate change ($12.9 billion). The additional cost of $5.0 to $10.1 billion associated with US dependence on imported oil could rise substantially, totaling $7.0 to $36.8 billion, in the event of a sudden price increase for crude oil.” (Real Price of Gas, n.p.)
Factors Responsible for Change in Gas Price
There are certain factors behinds the change in US Gas price which include the change in cost of crude oil, the change in demands for Gas and change in tax structure. The price of the crude oil is determined worldwide by Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Whenever there is shortage of the crude oil, its demand goes up, which results in the increase of Gas price. In past several international incidents have accounted for the increase in demand of crude oil and shortage of gas like “Arab oil embargo in 1973, the Iranian revolution in 1978, the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, and the Persian Gulf conflict in 1990”( A Primer on Gasoline Prices, n.p.).
When there is no change in the price of crude oil even then there is fluctuation in the gas price due to other reasons. For example, in the season of summer people have vacations; they travel more and the demand for the gas goes about 5 percent higher than during the rest of the year. This increase in demand for the gas causes the rise in its price. The change in gas price is also caused by the imbalance of product demand and supply. Sometimes the refinery production problems or lagging imports make changes in the demand and the whole sellers bid high for the available stocks, ultimately the gas price goes up.
Increased Price of Gas in United States
The increase of gas price has been an important issue in the history of United States but during last few years the prices are rapidly going high and people are getting worried about it. In the last century the gas price reached its higher level in the year 1981 when the Iran Iraq war was started. After that there was a decline in the gas price but in the August 2006 the gas price touched its peak and reached to a level of $3.3 per gallon. That was the result of increase in crude oil cost as well as the Hurricane Katrina ancient which further tightened gasoline supplies. Katrina not only badly harmed the US economy but also account for taking out almost than 25 percent of U.S. crude oil production and 10-15 percent of U.S. refinery capacity.
How Katrina affected Gas Price
There were major impacts of Hurricane Katrina on the price of gas in United States in 2005. Many important American refineries are settled in the west coast. An important American inlet for oil import Louisiana suffered badly from the Katrina. The major gas pipelines which connected the Louisiana region to the entire East Coast were closed and as a result there was a massive shortage of gas in United States which resulted in the rise of its price which reached up to the level of $5.87 in Stockbridge, Georgia. In airports also, the shortage of fuel was reported on 2nd September. There was a fear that this shortage may not led to decrease in food production. President Bush on 31st August announced that the Energy Department of government has approved the loans to Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to stabilize the situation. The International Energy Agency offered the selling of two million barrels of crude oil and other refined products from national supplies to make the situation better. It was also stated that these supplies will arrive in US market within two weeks. As a result of several other steps taken by the government the prices of gas in the country fall up to certain level.
At present the retail price of Gas is $2.87 per Gallon, 4.5 cents cheaper than a year ago. The increase in gas price is building pressure on the government. The people of America are very concerned about the changes in the price of Gas and the rapid increase also cause anxiety and anger among them because it increases their cost of traveling and also affect their living standard. The general public, the politicians and the economic analyst and experts urge government to find out the ways to reduce the pain of high gas prices.
History of Gas price in United States
The economy and people of United States have witnessed many fluctuations in the gas price during some last decades. The gas price was around $1.5 in 1970s but when the war between Iran and Iraq started in early 1980s the prices of crude oil were increased and as a result the price of gas also reaches to its peak. In March 1981 the gas price was $2.8 in today’s dollar which was the highest price of that century. After that the price was dropped about 43 percent between 1981 and 1986. The gas price reaches its peak again in the year 2005 when the price became more than 3 dollars per gallon. The history of gas price (cents per gallon) in United States is as follow.
Gas Prices during 1990s
During the last decade of the twentieth century the gas price was changed from 119.2 cents per gallon (1991) to 145.3 cents per gallon (2000). There was a change of 26.1 cents in the price of gas in these ten years. However, the gas price fluctuated a lot and it reached much higher level then what was it in the end of year 2000 but finally the change after ten years is just 26.1 cents per gallon.
In the year 1991, the gas price was 119.2 cents per gallon which became 104.2 in the next year, 1992. In the year 1993, the price of gas was 106.8 cents per gallon, by the end of the year the price was 99.9 cents. The highest gas price during the year was 109.3 cents in the month of October. In 1994 gas price was 99.2 cents per gallon and by the end of the year the price was 112.4 cents. In the month of August, the price of gas was 116.5 cents which was the highest price of the year 1994. The year 1995 starts with the gas price of 112.7 cents per gallon and by the end there was a little difference in price which was 112.8 cents per gallon in December. However, the gas price touches the level of 124.6 cents in the month of June 1995.
At the start of year 1996, the gas price was 112.9 cents per gallon which was 127.4 cents in the end of year. In the month of May, the gas price was 133 cents which was the highest price for the year. In 1997, the gas price was 127.2 cents per gallon and by the end of the year; it was reduced to 115.8 cents. During the year, the gas price several times touches the level of 128 cents and in the highest price of the year was 128.8 cents in the month of September. The gas price was 114.8 cents per gallon at the start of year 1998. During the whole year there was a decline in the price of gas which finally ended at 97.9 cents per gallon in December 1998. The gas price at the start of year 1999 was 97.7 cents per gallon. During the year, rapid increase in gas price was seen and in the month of December, the gas price was 131.4 cents per gallon. The year 2000 started with gas price of 131.2 cents per gallon which continued to rise till the mid of year. In the month of June, the price of gas was 171.2 cents per gallon, then there was a reduction in price and finally in the end of 2000 the gas price was 145.3 cents per gallon.
Twenty First Century and the Price of Gas
The twenty first century also witness lots of fluctuation in the price of gas in United States. The price of gas was 144.6 cents per gallon at the start of first decade of 21st century and at present the gas price has reached the level of 287.7 cents per gallon. The difference in the price of gas from the start of 2001 and up till now is 147.1 cents. The difference in gas price during ten years (1991 – 2000) was just 26.1 cents but in just about seven years the gas prices are raised by 143 cents.
In the year 2001, the gas price was 144.6 cents per gallon. There was fluctuation in price through out the year. In the month of May, it was 173.9 cents after that the price went on decreasing and in the end of year 2001, the price was 113.7 cents per gallon. The gas price was 115.2 when the year 2002 started; it went on increasing rapidly through out the year. The price was 148.4 cents at the end of the year although the price touches the level of 149.9 cents per gallon in the month of October 2002. The year 2003 also witnessed rise in the gas price which was 148.7 cents in the start and 152.1 cents in the end of the year. In the month of August the price touched the level of 178.7 cents per gallon.
In the year 2004 the gas price was 155.2 cents which went on rising and the year ends with price of 183.8 cents. During the year 2004 the price of gas several times exceeded the limit of 2 dollars and it was 210.4 cents in the month of May. At the start of year 2005, the gas price was 182.4 cents which reached at 224.1 cents per gallon after continuous increase through out the year. In the month of September the gas price reached the highest level that was 311.7 cents per gallon. The gas price was 228.1 cent in the starting of year 2006. The price fluctuated through out the year and in the month of August it reached the level of 308.3 cents per gallon. At the end of year 2006 the price of gas was 238.7 cents per gallon. The year 2007 stated with gas price of 238.2 cents per gallon which is continuously fluctuating and at present it is 287.7 cents per gallon.
Overall Fluctuation in Gas Price
From the above data the ups and downs in the price level of gas are clearly indicated. If we calculate the difference in gas price from 1991 to 2007 we got to know that in these years the price has raised to 181.7 cents per gallon and the big rise were occurred in the 21st century. In 1990s there was also fluctuation in price but that resulted in the price to go up just 26.1 cents and the rise in price from 2001 to 2007 is much greater than that. In just about seven years there is an increase of 181.7 cents per gallons in the price of gas in United States.
Analysis of History
So it was the history of gas price in United States. If we analyze the above history we got the point that the price of gas never remained stable in any of the year. There were continuous ups and downs in the price level. One important point revealed from the above data is that, the highest price level was touched in the mid of the year every time i.e. in the season of summer. It is very clear in above data that the highest price of the year was in the months of May, June, August and September. This point gives support to the fact that the demand for gas increases in the summer season which results in the rise of gas price during these months.
The reason behind the increase in gas price is that the demand for oil and gasoline is high, and supply is limited. The largest factor that leads to raise the gas price is the increase in oil demand and price. It shows that the oil price leads to change the gas price and the reason for the rise in oil price is the international demand and supply imbalance. “EIA noted that, since 2000, world oil prices have risen sharply as supply has tightened, first as a result of strong demand growth in developing economies such as China, and later as a result of supply constraints resulting from disruptions and inadequate investment to meet demand growth.” (This Week in Petroleum, n.p.)
Effects of Gas Prices:
“When gas prices get too high, everyone suffers. Drivers have to pay more to get where they’re going. Farmers have to pay more to run their tractors and combines. Truckers have to pay more to transport goods. And the chain-effect makes prices rise across the board. So it’s up to us to do everything we can to keep gasoline prices in check.” (Gas Price Monitoring, n.p. )
The price of gas in United States has touched the level of $3 per gallon in many states. The continuous rise in the price of gas is resulting in the increase of other good’s price also and the American consumers now have to pay billions in elevated prices for every item from groceries to air travel. Because the gas is use as a fuel in big utility vehicle and when the gas price raises the cost of traveling of these vehicles also goes up. As a result there is increase in prices of all the goods. On the consumer end, purchases of consumer durables such as autos and other appliances are also affected by instability in gas prices.
The impact of high gas price is also affecting the life style of general public. In order to afford high price gas, the three-quarters of Americans are “either spending less on other things (45 percent), saving less (21 percent) or increasing debt (10 percent). And while just over half say gas prices are causing them financial hardship, that’s down from 64 percent in the spring — an indication that many people are accommodating them to the situation. Many people are cutting back elsewhere to keep paying at the pump, and if prices hit $3 per gallon long-term, more than six in 10 say they’ll have to reduce their driving. The public in some senses is being quite resilient in the face of $2.61 gas, a nominal high for the national average. Relatively few — 22 percent — are driving less now because of the cost of gas, and about as few say they’ll cut back on driving because of gas prices in the next few months.” (Sussman, n.p.)
Effects on Traveling
With the increase in gas price the cost of traveling also increase for people but the researchers have proved that even after the increase in gas price the cost of traveling is not that much high that people think about less traveling on their cars.
“For a typical motorist driving 2,500 miles this summer in an average car that gets 20 miles to the gallon, the higher prices forecast by the Energy Information Administration will add up to about $50 more for gasoline — enough to complain about, but not enough for a Hub resident to skip a weekend trip to Cape Cod or Maine.”(Howe and Gavin, n.p.)
Among the general public there are different types of opinions regarding the high gas price and their traveling habits. There are some people who think that the gas price is not affecting them much that they should think about changing or selling their cars that consuming more gasoline. However, people think that in case of buying new car, they will go for such cars that have better gas mileage. Another group of people think that with the increase in price of gas it is becoming difficult for them to manage with more than one car because the cost of filling the tank of small car is around $40 to $45 which is very high for some people.
The analysts of car manufacturing companies noticed that people are now showing more interest in buying small cars and the demand for larger models is going down slightly. But there is no any big change in people behavior right now however the increase in price will soon lead to such change, because when the price of gasoline will exceed the level of 3 dollars then to filling up a car with a tank of 30 gallons plus capacity will cost in triple digits and then there would be change in people’s behaviors and traveling habits. The gas price changes will affect the traveling cost in a manner that “each one-cent increase in gasoline costs consumers $1 billion a year. If consumers maintain current driving habits through this summer’s peak prices, they would spend about $40 billion more annually for gas, or about 0.5 percent of all US consumer spending.” (Howe and Gavin, n.p.)
Effects on Economy
The economists analyze the situation after the increase in gas price and urges that this will have some negative effects on the economy. The rise in gas price is considered similar to rise in taxes. When taxes go high people revise their pattern of consuming goods . The amount they spend for the goods is increase as a result of rise in tax rates. Similarly when the gas price goes up, it effects the household spending of people and the amount spends also increases. As Sara Johnson, an economist at a forecasting firm Global Insight, said, “The average household will spend about $2,200 on gasoline this year, up $220 from 2004”. (Howe and Gavin, n.p.) However, the prices are not high enough to put the economy in critical situation. The price of gas adjusted with inflation is still at low level in comparison with the gas price of 1980s. (Howe and Gavin, n.p.) There is need for government to take steps to slow down the rapid increase in gas price otherwise it will badly affect the economy.
Effect on Environment
Like many other countries of the world, gas is main source of energy in United States. The worst effect of gasoline based motor vehicles in air pollution. Motor vehicles emit various air pollutants, including carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulate matter (PM), and other toxic gases. These emissions may cause a host of negative effects, including human illness and mortality, global warming, ozone depletion, crop damage, reduced visibility, deterioration of buildings, and acid rain. Due to harmful environmental effects of gasoline several crops are also infected.
When the prices go high for gas then this will encourage the conservation and careful and limited use of gas. People will become more conscious about driving and they may prefer to carpooling, taking a bus or a train. The people will become careful about the consumption of gas and will avoid any misuse. The rise in gas prices can also make people to move towards the hybrid cards. The interest of public in the hybrid cards will result in more investments and thus the production and sales of hybrid car will be profitable. There are already some hybrids on the road manufactured by Toyota and Honda and more such cars will come on roads in future. The hybrid cars have double gas mileage than a normal car.
Effect on Prices of other Goods
The rise in the price of gas will also result in the rise of price of several commodities. As a result of increase in gas price the transportation charges for people will not only increase but it will also cause high cost of working for people. People who go for their job in their car will face increase in their fuel expenditures on daily basis. The wholesalers who travel to certain other different areas and bring commodities to sale in their hometown will also face rise in their cost of bringing commodities at their work place. This rise is then transferred to the retail customers in form of high prices of several commodities. This increase is not only at small level but this theory works at high levels too. When the producers face increase in their cost of production resulting from rise in gas price they will also go for transferring it to the general public in form of increased prices of the goods.
Gas is a major source of energy in United States. The economy of United States in closely linked with the gas price. Increase in gas price can drop the GDP rate whereas higher GDP rate can be acquired with low gas prices. There are certain factors that contribute in the cost of gasoline and several factors contribute in the change of gasoline price. The tax system and other reasons create difference among the gas price of different states and regions of the country. The increase in gas price affects the people traveling habits and also leads to rise of other commodities price.
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Record summer gas prices coming
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