- Absolute gas price: $0.95
- Inflation-adjusted price: $2.16 (#13 least expensive year in 84-year span)
Heading into 1987, many feared lasting damage as a result of the oil price collapse. However, in December 1986, several OPEC members agreed to cut production, thereby raising prices. The cuts would bring OPEC oil prices up to $18 per barrel, and in 1987, gas prices began to stabilize. OPEC had previously used a fixed-price system of this kind, the abandonment of which had been an attempt to dominate the world market, but led to plummeting gas prices.
- Absolute gas price: $0.95
- Inflation-adjusted price: $2.07 (#9 least expensive year in 84-year span)
In 1988, OPEC leaders met once again to discuss oil production limits, which had previously been established as 16.6 million barrels per day. Bringing production down to this level was intended to raise prices globally and meet a benchmark oil price of $18 per barrel. With these cuts and limitations in place, gasoline prices in 1988 matched those of 1987, signaling that the falling prices had come to an end.
- Absolute gas price: $1.02
- Inflation-adjusted price: $2.12 (#11 least expensive year in 84-year span)
Though not exactly a time of prosperity for the automobile industry, 1989 brought about two important additions to the American world of cars. The Lexus LS 400, born from Japanese car giant Toyota, launched this year, and changed the world of luxury cars forever. On an episode of “Top Gear,” the model was described as “petrifyingly good.” This wasn't the only way in which Japan solidified itself as a key player in the American luxury car industry: Nissan also introduced the Infiniti this year
- Absolute gas price: $1.16
- Inflation-adjusted price: $2.29 (#19 least expensive year in 84-year span)
The first federal gasoline tax, of $0.01 a gallon, was put into place in 1932. The gas tax was always intended to create revenue to be used towards new infrastructure, but in 1990, that changed. Congress approved a package in which the gas tax would be raised from $0.091 to $0.14 a gallon, but half of the additional revenue created would be put toward reducing the national deficit. Some experts believe this permanently altered public attitude towards the gas tax. Instead of seeing it as a necessary and even helpful price for maintaining roads, it had transformed into a federal cash pot.
- Absolute gas price: $1.14
- Inflation-adjusted price: $2.16 (#14 least expensive year in 84-year span)
At the start of 1991, the United States was still in the midst of the Gulf War, which had begun in August 1990 when Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait. This Iraqi invasion caused a decrease in oil production, leading to a spike in oil prices keenly felt by a country in recession. The average price of gasoline in 1991 remained fairly inflated at $1.14 per gallon.
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- Absolute gas price: $1.13
- Inflation-adjusted price: $2.08 (#10 least expensive year in 84-year span)
In 1992, Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush in the presidential election. A factor politicians often point to in terms of the victory was a rising unemployment rate. Though gas prices also spiked under Bush's watch, they were on the decline by the election. Clinton used the previous recession as a means for painting Bush's economic strategies as problematic, and famously had the phrase “the economy, stupid” scrawled on a campaign headquarters whiteboard as a reminder of how much Americans cared about this issue.
- Absolute gas price: $1.11
- Inflation-adjusted price: $1.98 (#7 least expensive year in 84-year span)
Throughout 1992, 10 million Americans were unemployed, the poverty rate hit 15.1%, and inflation was still impacting family income. As a response, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore launched an economic strategy that slowly began to shift the economy forward. This strategy involved eliminating the deficit, prioritizing education as a means for creating American jobs, and opening foreign markets.
- Absolute gas price: $1.11
- Inflation-adjusted price: $1.93 (#3 least expensive year in 84-year span)
Gas prices remained steady from 1993 to 1994, hovering at $1.11 per gallon. Some of the most popular cars for that model year included the 1994 Lexus SC, the Cadillac DeVille, and the BMW 3 Series. This same year, the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement changed the way that cars would be produced. Because of NAFTA, the United States was able to trade freely with Canada and Mexico; Mexico has since become a key player in automobile manufacturing.
- Absolute gas price: $1.15
- Inflation-adjusted price: $1.95 (#4 least expensive year in 84-year span)
The '90s were a time of economic prosperity, job growth, and increased productivity that paved the way for a technological revolution. Although some of this growth was due to political strategy, many factors could be considered “lucky mistakes” or unpredictable. For instance, Clinton's effort to reduce the deficit shouldn't necessarily have helped with unemployment rates, but it did. The reduction of the deficit aided in bank recapitalization, which pumped up the economy and reduced unemployment as well.
- Absolute gas price: $1.23
- Inflation-adjusted price: $2.02 (#8 least expensive year in 84-year span)
From 1995 to 1996, gas prices jumped substantially, and some cities hit prices far above the national average. Some pumps in New York City spiked as high as $1.56 per gallon. Analysts blamed the price hikes on the rising costs of crude oil, which hit $25 a barrel in the spring, forcing those who refined crude oil into gasoline to bump up their prices as well. Higher prices were also caused by higher national demand for gasoline, which some believe resulted from increases in speed limits across the country.
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