A damn interesting chart. [ed. Interactive gas price chart by location]

Every November gas prices go down. Are the politicians colluding with the oil companies?

Mmm, while you’re right that there’s a trend, especially in 05 and 06, in Arizona the gas price actually went up November 07. Glancing at other locations around the US, that seems to hold true in general. That doesn’t seem to indicate artificial control by itself.

Going back on that chart 6 years, I would say that every year the gas prices seem to go down in the fall except in those years where they don’t. Seriously though, the correlation doesn’t look that great…and, to the extent that there is one, it is more likely explained by the seasonal drop in demand at the end of the summer vacation season. (Also, the drop in 2005 was just as dramatic as in 2006 and more dramatic than in 2004. And, 2005 is an off-year…for elections for federal office anyway. [Here in New York State where we have 55 levels of government and vote for every office down to assistant to the assistant district dog-catcher, we do have elections in the odd years for local and state offices but I think many saner states have nothing or essentially nothing in those off years, and at any rate, I fail to see the mechanism by which state or local elections would affect gas prices.])

Prices also go down in February. I wonder if the Valentine’s Day industry is colluding with the oil giants…

And prices historically go up in the Summer! O…M…G! It’s a conspiricy by Big Oil™ and the gods to get us out of the house when the sun is shinning so we’ll, um, go outside and do stuff. Or something like that!

(I haven’t figured out yet how the gods and Big Oil™ benefit from this yet, but I’m sure politicians are involved somehow…)


The desire of people to lay the blame of a variety of ills at the feet of some cabal that is actively planning evil things is one which cannot be underestimated. The idea that the decisions of millions of consumers and producers drives our markets is one which seems too hard to grasp, so instead we have people holding onto the idea that someone, somewhere, controls prices even in the face of absolutely no evidence to back it up.

If the politicians and the oil companies wanted to collude on oil prices, wouldn’t prices go down in Sept and Oct, in anticipation of Nov elections? Most of Nov takes place after the elections. Still, I think you owe us some actual analysis with numbers rather than a link to a hard-to-read chart assuming we’ll do the analysis and come up with the same conclusion as you did.

There’s millions of oil producers in the world? Who knew?

But in this case a seasonal price drop probably reflects usage. November is a fairly temporate month when energy usage for air conditioning or heating is low.

Millions of producers and consumers.

Aren’t there billions of consummers?


Aren’t summer-blend gasolines more expensive to make? Barring other influences (demand, supply, taxes etc) this would lead to drops in the fall and increases in the spring.

I only looked at two locations (Atlanta and Detroit), but there’s a lot of noise in the data - hard to identify trends without weeding out non-periodic influences.

So you think it’s a free market as long as there’s millions of consumers? The number of producers is immaterial?

Why do you think it’s particularly relevant? Just curious.


There are lots of producers. Remember, oil is a world-wide commodity, and you can’t just look at the US market. Now, that is not to say that OPEC doesn’t exert some amount of control over oil prices. But the US oil companies don’t take part in that effort.

There’s also a short period of time for producers to switch from winter gas to summer-blend gas during the spring, which constricts supply and drives up prices then.

Regarding the “November” issue: select “USA Average” for area 1 and “Canada Average” for area 2 with six yeares for the duration and note that they follow the same pattern for prices even though Canada does not hold elections every November and their national elections are on a different schedule than those of the U.S.
(If someone wishes to suggest that U.S. politics drag Canadian prices around, that poster will need to provide some evidence.)

Why do the Ohio and Indianan trends look more jagged than other parts of the country? I looked at 9 mo. and 1-year periods for Cincinnati/Cleveland/Dayton/Indianapolis compared to Fresno, CA, Charlotte, NC, Los Angeles, and other cities.

Was this directed at my post? If so, I’d say it’s relevant because Renob raised ths issue. I’d certainly agree that if there were millions of choices from whom to buy oil, it would be impossible for anyone to artificially fix the price. But if it’s actually a fairly small number, it would be possible. So the issue of how many oil producers there are is directly relevant to a debate on oil price fixing.

I agree. Most people forget that corporations like Exxon, Chevron, and BP are actually mostly middlemen in the oil trade. They control relatively little oil production. The big oil producing companies are national corporations like Saudi Aramco, National Iranian Oil Company, and Gazprom. I’m guessing none of these corporations really cares about American elections enough to manipulate the oil market.

Clearly the colluders are practicing their manipulation of the oil market in Canada and during non-election years in the USA, so that they’ll be ready to do it correctly when the USA does have an election. What other possibility is there?

Looking at the charts (for my area), prices are actually lower in the summer than they are in May. So. No.