There were an estimated 218 million motorists in the United States in 2015, accounting for a combined 3.1 trillion vehicle miles traveled the same year — more than in any year prior. Because of our dependence on personal vehicles, the price of gasoline can have a considerable impact on Americans’ budgets and can also have much broader economic implications.
The price at the pump across the country is subject to global forces of supply and demand of crude oil. Shortages and relatively high demand will cause prices to spike, while a glut in supply tends to keep gas prices low.
In recent years, American motorists have caught a break at the pump, following a roughly 50% drop in the price of a barrel of crude oil from 2014 to 2015. Nationwide, a gallon of gas cost an average of $2.45 in 2015 — down from an all-time non-inflation adjusted high of $3.64 per gallon on average nationwide in 2012.
Despite the fall in crude oil prices, for much of the last several decades, gas has been even less expensive than it currently is. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to identify the average cost of a gallon of gas every year since 1945.