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Madison Czopek
By Madison Czopek October 2, 2020

Photo shows real gas prices during Obama-Biden administration, but that’s not the whole story

If Your Time is short

• A photo shows real gas prices from May 7, 2012, during the Obama-Biden administration.

• The $5.49 per gallon price of gas appears to have been cherry-picked from a spike in the price of gas in summer 2012.

People are sharing a viral image on social media that shows gas prices at more than $5 per gallon to suggest that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were responsible for the remarkably high prices during their time in the White House.

One Facebook post includes an image of an Exxon sign that lists the per-gallon prices for various types of gas: regular at $5.49, plus at $5.59 and supreme at $5.79. 

"Just a reminder of what things looked like the last time Biden was in the White House," the text added to the bottom of the photo reads.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

A reverse image search revealed that the photo is real. 

PolitiFact found the photo on two stock photo websites: Alamy and Shutterstock

"WASHINGTON, DC, USA - $5 gas price sign at Exxon service station on May 7, 2012, near Watergate complex at intersection of Virginia Ave NW and Rock Creek Parkway NW," the caption provided with the Alamy photo reads.

At that point, Obama and Biden had been in the White House about three years. But the photo is from spring 2012, a period when gas prices spiked.

The prices shown in the photo were also $1.70-plus more than the weekly retail price for a gallon of gas on average in the U.S., which was $3.79 on May 7, 2012.

Featured Fact-check

Gas prices fluctuate often, regardless of who is president at the time. Several experts maintain that unless the president is directly controlling gasoline prices, he cannot take credit for the cost.

Severin Borenstein, the director of the Energy Institute at the Haas School of Business University of California Berkeley, told PolitiFact presidents have "very little direct influence" over gas prices.

"By far the biggest driver is the price of crude oil, which is driven by supply and demand factors," he said. "A strong global economy, which presidents can influence slightly, is likely to increase demand and drive up prices. The economic growth out of the financial crisis was part of what drove high gasoline prices in 2012-14, just as the pandemic-driven global recession is now keeping oil prices very low."

A comprehensive look at gas prices during both the Obama and Trump administrations revealed that average gas prices for the entire country varied greatly.

On average, the weekly regular retail gas price during the Trump administration was about $2.50 per gallon, which is less than the average weekly regular retail price during the Obama administration — about $2.97 per gallon.

Our ruling

A Facebook post includes an image of an Exxon sign that lists gas prices at more than $5 per gallon and says, "Just a reminder of what things looked like the last time Biden was in the White House." 

It is a real photo of the price of gas at a Washington D.C. Exxon station in May 2012, when Obama and Biden were in office. However, the photo was taken when gas prices were spiking and shows a price that was still well above the average cost of a gallon of gas in the U.S. at that time.  

Gas prices fluctuate regardless of who the president is. The average price during the Obama years was $2.97 a gallon.

We rate this claim Half True.

Our Sources

Facebook post, Sept. 21, 2020

Alamy images, "WASHINGTON, DC, USA - $5 gas price sign at Exxon service station on May 7, 2012," accessed Oct. 1, 2020 

Shutterstock.com, "WASHINGTON, DC, USA - $5 gas price sign at Exxon service station on May 7, 2012," accessed Oct. 1, 2020

U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Weekly U.S. Regular All Formulations Retail Gasoline Prices," accessed Oct. 1, 2020

Snopes.com, "Is Gasoline Cheaper Under President Obama?" Dec. 21, 2015

Forbes, "Gasoline Prices Under Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump," Jan. 11, 2019

NBC News, "Trump claims credit for cheap gas. Experts say it's not so simple," Jan. 2, 2019

Vox, "Why Trump taking credit for low gas prices is a bad idea," Jan. 3, 2019

Email interview with Severin Borenstein, the director of the Energy Institute at the Haas School of Business University of California Berkeley, Oct. 2, 2020

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More by Madison Czopek

Photo shows real gas prices during Obama-Biden administration, but that’s not the whole story

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