Gas prices in the Hartford area have dropped a nickel in the last week and more than a dime in the last month, giving motorists filling up with regular unleaded some comfortable distance from the sticker-shocking $4 levels of just a couple months ago.
Cause for rejoicing, right? Well, maybe not so fast.
Any drop in gas prices is welcome, but comparing today’s cost only against the super-inflated prices of the recent past can lead to a false sense of economy. Gas prices today are lower than they generally have been for the last year and a half, but as the graphs below show, the current “low” price is historically very high.
In New England over the past 14 years, only two brief earlier periods have seen prices as high as they are today on an inflation-adjusted basis, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And the national graph – with prices for a gallon of regular unleaded going back to the mid-1970s – shows current prices are nearly as high as they were, adjusted for inflation, during the gas shortages of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Every penny counts, of course, but it may be premature to start planning that blow-out cross-country trip just yet.