A price of $2.38 per gallon for gas might seem like a fever dream at this point, but a lucky few were able to take advantage of that price at a Lehi gas station on Tuesday.
The lower price was thanks to a partnership between All About Food and Fuel gas station and the political grassroots group Americans for Prosperity. The two put on the event to raise awareness about how high gas prices are impacting Utahns, with Americans for Prosperity offsetting the cost difference.
The state's average price for unleaded gas Tuesday was $4.91 per gallon — higher than the national average of $4.33 — according to AAA. Americans for Prosperity chose $2.38 per gallon since it was the national average in mid-January 2021.
"We wanted to do these events so that we can capture the stories of everyday Utahns and find out how the costs are affecting them," said Heather Andrews, state director for Americans for Prosperity Utah. "And we can send a message, hopefully, to Washington to unleash energy independence, invite innovation and end reckless spending."
Americans for Prosperity chapters have held similar events in other states, but this was the first one in Utah. However, Andrews said the advocacy group hopes to hold more in other parts of Utah. Americans for Prosperity, a libertarian think tank begun by brothers David and Charles Koch, has been influential in conservative politics in the United States since its founding in 2004.
Cars were lined up at least an hour-and-a-half before the event began at 11 a.m., with cars still stretching around the gas station an hour later. Andrews said she talked with a number of people lined up to get gas, including Uber and Lyft drivers who had to find other employment after gas costs made driving for the ride-sharing apps unprofitable and families who were canceling vacations because they could no longer afford gas for the trip.
There were 3,107 gallons of gas sold during the event, according to Americans for Prosperity.
Max Smith, a retired Lehi resident, heard about the low prices from a friend. He lined up an hour before to fill up his and his wife's car.
"I got here in a hurry," he said, adding that grappling with inflation has been difficult as a retired individual with a fixed income. "It affects everything. What you buy and eat, where you go and savings."
Samuel Perez, a 17-year-old high school student from Eagle Mountain, has had similar struggles with rising prices.
"As a student, I do have to pay fees coming up since school is starting, but it's kind of hard when half my paycheck has to be going to gas every time," Perez said. "It's kind of tough, but this helps a lot."
All About Food and Fuel owner Jerry Larson said although rising gasoline prices haven't resulted in a decrease in vehicles filling up at his station, many people can no longer afford to buy a drink or snack from inside the gas station.
"We're doing this to show people exactly how much money they're losing," Larson said. "And you can thank your politicians from the city all the way up. Every politician, as far as I'm concerned, needs to take the responsibility because none of them that I can see is doing anything but bickering and fighting and arguing."
Utah Rep. John Curtis, who attended the event, told reporters one of his biggest focuses now is on energy policy.
"Everywhere I go in the district, everybody is concerned about inflation and gas prices. And the unfortunate thing is it doesn't have to be this way," Curtis said. "We don't have to sacrifice energy independence. We don't have to sacrifice higher prices. We don't have to sacrifice our economy and we can still lower emissions. All of those things — they're not mutually exclusive."
He added that a three-month gas tax holiday proposed by President Joe Biden would only be a Band-Aid fix. The tax holiday would pause the collection of an 18-cent per gallon federal tax per gallon for retail gas and a 24-cent per gallon tax for diesel. Such a tax holiday would save the average driver about $2.75 every time they fill up a typical 15-gallon tank, according to CNET.
The Gas Tax Relief Act, legislation for a tax holiday that would extend until Jan. 1, 2023, has also been introduced by Democratic Sens. Maggie Hassan and Mark Kelly. The bill has stalled since February, with experts saying it's unlikely the legislation will pass.
"Until we have a conversation about what's caused this, we're not going to start that longer process and avoid crisis," Curtis said. "We're shutting down U.S. production and then flying overseas and asking our enemies to produce more oil. That's the wrong approach to this."
"We need to move quicker to increase our production here in the United States. That will lower prices quicker than anything else," he added.