"Incredible transition" update: $5 gas, 32% jump in AAA gas-stranded calls, and Michigan county rations 911 responses

If you thought that Joe Biden’s energy policy only figuratively left Americans in the lurch, think again. Gas prices have risen so high and so fast that drivers have become much more reluctant to fill up their tanks, the Washington Post reports this morning. The number of roadside-assistance calls to AAA from drivers out of fuel have skyrocketed 32%, with 50,000 such calls in April alone.


That in itself is a pretty “incredible transition,” no?

AAA fielded 50,787 out-of-gas calls in April, a 32 percent jump from the same month last year. More than 200,000 drivers have been similarly stranded this year, the automobile club said. And gas prices have risen precipitously since April, making the financial pain even more acute.

Fuel prices began their most recent surge after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, upsetting energy markets. The U.S. average for a gallon of gas has swelled 62 percent, to $4.96, since last year, AAA data shows. Motorists in 16 states are paying at least $5 a gallon on average, while California has breached $6. Filling up a tank of gas, depending on the vehicle, can cost more than $100, which is the equivalent of 14 hours of after-tax income for certain low-wage workers.

The escalating expense, combined with the rising costs of food, housing and other essentials, has consumers playing inflationary whack-a-mole, making tougher choices on how much they can spend and when. Some drivers may do a partial fill-up if they’re pressed for cash at the end of a pay cycle, says Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.

“If you only have five or 10 bucks left before your next paycheck, that’s what you’re going on,” De Haan said. “This tells us people are really hurting from high gas prices.”


Gas Buddy also has news of its own, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Don’t forget that the White House spent April bragging about a momentary stall in the rate of increase in gasoline. Gas prices had gone up 14 cents in March but actually declined a bit in April, going from an initial EIA average $4.334 at the end of March to a low of $4.17 in the third week of April, before rebounding a little to $4.211 final in the last week. And if AAA experienced this much of a rise in drivers taking it to the hairy edge in a month where gas prices were relatively stable, imagine how many more calls they ended up getting in May — when prices went from that $4.211 figure to $4.727, a fifty-cent increase over just five weeks.

Speaking of which, Gas Buddy also calculates that today’s the day when the US crossed the $5 per gallon Rubicon. The Hill adds a lot of editorializing to that data, however:

The average price of gasoline in the U.S. surpassed $5 per gallon for the first time ever on Thursday, according to gas price site GasBuddy.

The latest high price comes after months of rising prices and is likely to add to a political headache from the Biden administration even though presidents only have limited control over the price of the fuel. …

“All of these factors have created an environment ripe for a surge in gas prices, while Americans balk at prices but continue filling up as demand has seen little decline,” the group said in a statement.

However, Republicans are likely to try to place the blame on President Biden and the Democrats as the midterms approach.


Just remember, when the problem is Democrat policies leading to bad outcomes, the real story is all the pouncing Republicans will do with them.

At any rate, the EIA won’t have the official stat on average gas prices until late Monday. Given that this week’s report showed the average price rising 25 cents from the previous week to $4.977, it’s a cinch that it will show that we crossed the $5 mark and then some by that point. Even if it just stays at $5 even, prices will have risen 48% since the beginning of the year, and 103% since Biden took office.

That kind of sharp increase has other impacts than just a surge of calls to AAA’s hotline. Another, more critical hotline will get less response in at least one Michigan county as police have gone through an entire year’s budget of gasoline for police cruisers. From now on, ABC’s Good Morning America reported today, in-person responses to 911 calls in Isabella County will be rationed — for the next “several months,” apparently. Good luck, Isabella County residents … and Democrats running for office anywhere near there.


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David Strom 5:00 PM | May 23, 2024