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The other hockey sticks

Look at the red line.

From 1974-1986, high prices, with cliffs on both sides. Ignoring the OPEC (and post OPEC?) shenanigans, I eyeball $20-25/barrel before 1974, and $25-30 from 1986 to 2002. Some higher, some lower, but mostly in that range. Since then, though... can't quite call it a steady climb, since there's the huge swing around 2008, and the line of the past few years looks disconnected from the previous line. That said, it does look like a robust and ongoing increase, with current real gas prices being at least 3x the 1990s average, and 5x the 1960s average. And the price has roughly tripled in roughly 10 years. If the trend continues, we could expect maybe $180/barrel in 2020, or $270.

It seems a failure of governance, and cultural self-preservation, that this graph isn't more widely known or salient. Granted, people care more about pump gasoline prices:

which have been a lot more stable, and quite low in the 1990s. That said, they've climbed rapidly since -- competitive with OPEC crisis peaks, and higher than historical levels since the 1930s.

"The average price of a gallon of gas from 1918 to the present is $2.60 in June 2013 inflation adjusted dollars."

The site also compares oil and gas prices directly

Looks like gas prices haven't kept up with crude oil prices, suggesting either a coming crash in oil prices, a rapid catchup in gas prices to $7-8/gallon, or some mechanism keeping them separate now.

Some other inflation charts while we're here: college costs (up nearly 3x since 1985, if I divided things properly), electricity (only since 1990, but once again 2000-2002 was a golden age of low prices, but the variation is about 10%) and gold (as I type this, gold is $1220/oz; we could still see prices fall nearly in half.)

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Damien Sullivan

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February 2019


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