- Absolute gas price: $1.23
- Inflation-adjusted price: $1.98 (#6 least expensive year in 84-year span)
In 1997, a one-day gas boycott brought down prices by 30 cents per gallon overnight—or at least, so says a 2012 Facebook post that received wide circulation as it called for a similar boycott. When officials from various agencies looked into this claim, however, they found no federal records or news archives in reference to a 1997 “gas out.” In truth, gas prices remained fairly steady throughout 1997 and matched average prices of the year prior, save for changes in inflation.
- Absolute gas price: $1.06
- Inflation-adjusted price: $1.68 (#1 least expensive year in 84-year span)
Gas prices fell substantially from 1997 to 1998, dropping from an average of $1.23 per gallon to just $1.06 per gallon, the lowest since the government began tracking gasoline prices. In some states, average costs fell below a dollar. These low prices were caused by the falling costs of crude oil, which was selling on the New York Mercantile Exchange for less than half of what it had been a year prior. While cheap gasoline is usually welcome news for consumers, the same can't be said for the oil industry. Some small oil producers were forced to shut down entirely, as bigger corporations faced layoffs and extreme cost-cutting measures.
- Absolute gas price: $1.17
- Inflation-adjusted price: $1.81 (#2 least expensive year in 84-year span)
In 1998, gas prices hit an all-time low across the nation, and these prices continued into the early weeks and months of 1999. By the summer, prices were beginning to increase once again as oil production experienced cutbacks, but by the end of the year, absolute gas prices averaged $1.17 per gallon, climbing back towards the averages of years prior.
- Absolute gas price: $1.51
- Inflation-adjusted price: $2.26 (#17 least expensive year in 84-year span)
The fears of Y2K were mostly unfounded—though some computer glitches related to formatting and calendar data did arise. In the world of gasoline, prices climbed once again, hitting $1.51 per gallon on average. Gas costs dropped off again near the end of the year, as OPEC decided to increase daily crude oil production, upping the daily output by 800,000 barrels.
- Absolute gas price: $1.46
- Inflation-adjusted price: $2.13 (#12 least expensive year in 84-year span)
Gasoline prices dropped again from 2000 to 2001 during the first year of the Bush administration, amidst increased oil production from OPEC. In California, for example, gas prices dropped eight times over the course of nine weeks. They had risen during the spring, as usual, but continued to fall throughout the summer. In July, gas prices around the nation hit a three-month low of $1.40, though California taxes meant that the state's average price was $1.78.
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- Absolute gas price: $1.36
- Inflation-adjusted price: $1.95 (#5 least expensive year in 84-year span)
In 2002, gasoline prices fell for the second year in a row, both times by 10 cents or more. At this time, the National Academy of Sciences was feeling hopeful about the future of energy-efficient cars and released a study that estimated cars and trucks could meet a fuel efficiency level of 37 miles per gallon within the following 10 to 15 years. The same study also showed that falling prices weren't the only thing causing Americans to save money at the pump: the country was saving 2.7 barrels of gasoline every day as a result of increasingly more fuel-efficient vehicles.
- Absolute gas price: $1.59
- Inflation-adjusted price: $2.23 (#16 least expensive year in 84-year span)
Only a few cars achieve true fame—Doc's DeLorean and the Batmobile may come to mind—but the Hummer H2 must be counted among the most infamous cars ever produced. The Hummer H2 was released for the 2003 model year, and with a curb weight of more than 6,000 pounds, it was not a subtle choice. The car was designed and originally produced in a time when gasoline prices were so low that filling up the behemoth's extra-large tank was possible with breaking the bank. In 2003, however, gasoline prices were on the rise, and would soon reach levels that made owning an H2 a rather unsavory option.
- Absolute gas price: $1.88
- Inflation-adjusted price: $2.57 (#30 least expensive year in 84-year span)
In 2004, the United States was recovering from a recession that took place during 2002 and 2003. Fuel costs hit what was then an all-time high, reaching $1.88 per gallon on average. Multiple factors played into this price increase, among them a higher American fuel demand and consumption, and low domestic oil inventories. Additionally, OPEC's continued production cuts only served to hike gas prices further.
- Absolute gas price: $2.30
- Inflation-adjusted price: $3.04 (#17 most expensive year in 84-year span)
Gas costs surged in 2005—as much at one point as 20 cents in a period of just three weeks—and crude oil prices continued to increase as well. In August, crude oil hit $67 a barrel, instigating concern over whether the world's oil supply would be able to keep up with an ever-growing demand for fuel.
- Absolute gas price: $2.59
- Inflation-adjusted price: $3.32 (#11 most expensive year in 84-year span)
Crude oil and gasoline costs surged again in 2006, hitting an absolute price of $2.59 and an inflation-adjusted price of $3.20. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency was working to impose more stringent fuel restrictions, focusing specifically on combating sulfur levels in diesel fuel. Regulations demanding the use of low-sulfur diesel had been enacted in the '90s, but in 2006, the EPA began requiring ultra-low sulfur diesel, which contains only 15 parts per million.
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