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Why It Seems Like Gas Prices Only Go Up

Despite rising in the past few weeks, gas prices are still lower than they were this spring.

Despite rising in the past few weeks, gas prices are still lower than they were this spring. Paul Sakuma/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Paul Sakuma/AP

On Aug. 1, 2011, unleaded gas cost $3.70 a gallon, on average. As of last week, the average price of unleaded gas was $3.70 a gallon. The same as last August.

But you wouldn't know it, given how much we heard over the past year about rising gas prices. As I noted recently, it seems like everybody talks about gas prices when they go up. When gas prices fall, we don't hear so much about it. This may be part of the reason people tend to think inflation is higher than it really is.

The following graph shows two things: the price of gas (the orange line) and how often the phrase "gas prices" occurs in major media outlets each week (the gray line).

Rising Gas Prices Mean More Stories About Gas Prices

Gas prices

That spike in media coverage in early January, by the way, corresponds to the push to tighten the oil embargo on Iran — a move that was predicted to raise gas prices around the world.

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