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Fact Checking Hi and Lois on those Golden Gas Pumping Days of Yore

When I opened the paper on October 18, Chance Brown’s Hi and Lois comic strip struck me soundly. Poor Hi, we’re meant to conclude. But are the circumstances related in the strip accurate? I did a bit of fact checking:

Chance Brown's Hi and Lois strip on gas prices of October 18 2014, corrected after a fact check

Correction 1: Gas hasn’t had a price of $3.99 per gallon in the United States since July of 2008. The average price per gallon of gas in the United States is about $3.10 right now. Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank Economic Research Database.

Correction 2: The last time the price of gas was 35.9 cents a gallon in the United States was 1969. But you have to adjust for inflation, because costs were lower but pay was lower, too. If we adjust for inflation, 35.9 cents back then are equivalent to about $2.32 today. In other words, paying 35.9 cents in 1969 had the same punch to our wallets as paying $2.32 today. Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics and InflationData.com.

Correction 3: Why do we put gasoline in cars? To go somewhere. Chance Brown forgets that the fuel efficiency of cars was far different in 1969 from the fuel efficiency we experience nowadays. In 1969, passenger cars traveled 13.6 miles on a gallon of gas, on average. In 2013, the last full year for which data is available, passenger cars traveled 36.0 miles on a gallon of gas, on average. Sources: U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration.

If we put all these pieces of information, it turns out that on average and adjusting for inflation, it took 17 cents to travel a mile in a car in 1969. In contrast, it only takes 8.6 cents to travel a mile in a car today.

Hi should be smiling, unless he’s driving a larger car than he used to, driving his fuel efficiency below average, in which case it’s his own darn fault.

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