Summer is officially upon us, and millions of American families will soon be embarking on their annual trips to the beach, the mountains, the lake, grandma’s house, or any other of the fantastic destinations our country has to offer.
The beginning of “summer driving season” is also a time when many Americans turn even greater attention to the price of gasoline. After all, traveling several hundred or more miles in a loaded up minivan can rack up an awfully large fuel bill.
But what about this year? Everyone knows that domestic oil production has been surging, and that this has created tens of thousands of jobs and improved our balance of trade. Doesn’t the Great American Oil Boom also mean that families won’t have to spend as much on the Great American Road Trip? One might be inclined to think that, but summer fuel prices tell us otherwise.
According to AAA, the average gasoline price the week leading up to Memorial Day weekend is above $3.60, just a shade below last year’s national Memorial Day average of $3.63 per gallon. Further, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average cost of gasoline this summer is projected to be right in line with that of last summer.
Add it all up, and the more than 36 million Americans who are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend—a post-recession high—should not expect to see increased domestic oil production translate to lower gas prices at the pump.
Making matters worse, despite improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency, the EIA expects that American motorists will consume the same amount of gasoline this summer as last summer, approximately nine million barrels of oil per day. In other words, our nation’s total spending on oil—which last year totaled a near-record $870 billion and accounted for 5 percent of total GDP—is still dragging down our economy, as more spending on oil equals less spending elsewhere with no added utility.
The problem, of course, extends far beyond leisure travel. Americans can choose not to take a vacation if gas prices get too high, but they cannot afford not to go to work. Businesses cannot choose to not make deliveries or transport their passengers.