Thanks to inflation and other factors, gas prices have been on the rise over the last several months. In Mississippi and other Gulf Coast states, the gas prices have been traditionally lower than in other parts of the country. Nevertheless, the price rose in November up to about $3.05 per gallon. This puts gas prices on track to be the highest holiday prices in nearly ten years.
Gas prices play a significant factor for people seeking to travel during the holidays. It also places a burden on farmers and those dependent on machinery for a living during the regular seasons. Gas prices play a significant part in the United States economy, which is why government policymakers have to make it a top priority when considering the issues they face with inflation.
When considering this issue, one may wonder how the price of gas fluctuates so much over time. Only a couple of years ago, during the Trump administration, the gas prices had dropped to under $3, sometimes under $2. Now, it has skyrocketed to a record-high in some parts of the country. How can there be such a difference?
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, gas prices fluctuate based on four different factors: the cost of crude oil, refining costs and profits, federal and state taxes, and distribution/marketing costs. The “weight” of those factors also changes over time. Compared to the average price in the last ten years, federal and state taxes, for example, make up a much higher role in gas prices in 2021. In fact, the percentage of the gas price comprised of federal and state taxes rose from 16 percent to 22 percent.
Robert Rapier of Forbes seems to suggest that the biggest factors contributing to the price of gas are outside of the government’s control, such as the international price for crude oil, limitations on refining, and the seasonal element of supply and demand. While these certainly can be contributing factors, the analysis avoids the ultimate issue that government administrations have a significant ability to change the prices of gas, based upon their policies.
Elizabeth Warren recently blamed the issue of gas price inflation on corporate greed. The reality is that a system of highly complicated factors influences the price of gas. No one company is going to be able to raise the prices singlehandedly. Rather, free-market principles of supply and demand promote the true prices that gas is worth. The problem is when other factors step into the picture and negatively influence the natural price of gas. Such factors can include international markets, supply chain issues from bad government pandemic restrictions, and government policies heavily regulating the energy sector, as Brad Polumbo with the Foundation for Economic Education has noted.
The rapid increase in gas prices can ultimately be attributed to a rapid transition in government policy. Biden represents this transition from the Trump administration, saying that America does not need to boost its domestic production of oil and gas. Unfortunately, the outcome of this kind of transition can only mean an increase in prices. Thus, while some attempt to explain away the rapid rise of gas by blaming external factors that are outside of the government’s control, such discussions are merely a smokescreen to cover the root causes.
What then should be done in Mississippi? Mississippi has an opportunity to lead the charge in this area. State taxes and regulations play an additional factor in the price of gas that only compounds the problem into a much greater issue. Counteracting the federal government’s role in the price of gas would greatly help manage the inflation that is so rampant throughout the United States -even during the holidays.