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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson December 8, 2021

No, gas did not cost $1.86 a gallon when Donald Trump left the White House

If Your Time is short

• The national average price for gasoline when Trump left the White House was $2.38, or about 28% higher than what he said it was.

Former President Donald Trump took multiple shots at his successor, Joe Biden, during an interview with conservative broadcaster Hugh Hewitt. Among them: an attack on Biden for a rise in gasoline prices.

Here’s an exchange from the Dec. 8 interview:

Trump: "Energy prices — we were energy independent, and now we’re going begging, ‘OPEC please send us oil, we have no oil, please send us oil.’ California just hit $7, $7.75 in certain areas of California. Can you believe it?"

Hewitt: "I can’t."

Trump: "It was $1.86 when I left."

We have previously written that gas prices are currently at their highest levels since 2014, and that the year-over-year rise is among the highest in at least 30 years.

However, Trump is wrong that the price per gallon "was $1.86 when I left" the White House. (Trump’s office did not respond to an inquiry for this article.)

We turned to the price data collected by the federal Energy Information Administration. The national average price of a gallon of gasoline for the week of Jan. 18, 2021, was $2.38, or about 28% higher than what Trump said it was. 

 

The only time the national average gasoline price reached as low as $1.86 under Trump was in March 2020, at the very beginning of the pandemic, when demand cratered due to lockdowns and business closures.

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If Trump was intending to refer to California, which he had mentioned in his previous sentence, he would be even further off. The state has some of the highest prices in the country. That week, the average price in California was $3.21, or 73% higher than what Trump said. During Biden’s term in office, the average weekly price in California has risen as high as about $4.55,  but nowhere near $7.

 

In Texas, which typically has among the lowest gas prices, the average price that week was just under $2.10; in Houston, it was $2.06.

"In no U.S. city or state was the average price of gasoline $1.86 per gallon on Jan. 20, 2021," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis with GasBuddy.

De Haan added that in some states, there were probably individual stations selling gas for $1.86 a gallon on that date, but there were also stations in Orlando, Fla., at $5.95 per gallon. So at best, Trump would be engaging in extreme cherry-picking by highlighting an unrepresentative price as typical as he was exiting the White House.

And a final reminder: In general, a president, whether Trump or Biden, has limited control over the weekly and monthly shifts in gasoline prices. On a short-time horizon, gas prices depend mostly on global supply and demand. 

Under both presidents, the coronavirus pandemic played a major role. The lowest prices under Trump came during plunging demand, while the higher prices under Biden have been shaped by rising demand during the economic recovery.

Our ruling

Trump said that gasoline prices were $1.86 a gallon when he left office.

The national average price for gasoline when Trump left the White House was actually $2.38, or about 28% higher than what Trump said.

We rate the statement False.

Our Sources

Donald Trump, interview with Hugh Hewitt, Dec. 8, 2021

Energy Information Administration, national average gasoline prices, accessed Dec. 8. 2021

Email interview with Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis with GasBuddy, Dec. 8, 2021

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No, gas did not cost $1.86 a gallon when Donald Trump left the White House

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