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How to Lower Gas Prices Less than a Penny

March 16th, 2022 by dk

Is there a better way to cap a 36-year Congressional career than to pass a bipartisan transportation infrastructure bill worth $1.2 trillion? Yes, Peter DeFazio, yes there is. Our stalwart local representative can leave an even longer lasting legacy. He can draft legislation that changes how gas prices are posted on every corner in America.

It’s time to rescind a privilege extended only to fuel retailers. It’s time to end fractional pennies at the pump. No other retail product has a posted price that is calculated to three decimal points on every dollar. It made sense in 1932, when a gallon of gas cost a quarter. It makes sense no longer.

Lawmakers make laws. They seldom remove them. DeFazio built his populist reputation as one who will fight for little things. Little things that are ubiquitous become big things in a hurry.

Americans use nearly 400 million gallons of gasoline every day. Virtually every one of those gallons has a price that adds 9/10 of a penny to the ninth penny of a dime. Those slivered cents come to $3.6 million every day. Over a year, that comes to more than $1 billion. That’s not pocket change.

The bridges, bypasses and bus lanes which will be built with that $1.2 trillion will last for decades. Some will be around for a century or longer, if they are properly maintained. Removing slivered pennies from consumer pricing will last forever.

Congress can’t do much to lower gas prices right now. Russia’s aggressions and our response will send prices higher. Eliminating that last nine on the posted prices won’t lessen the injury, but it will remove the insult.

Our government can remove an unnecessary complexity to everyday life. We long for simplicity and transparency, but we pay this one price with precocious precision.

If you like, compare the petroleum pricing to bridge building this way. Bridges being repaired are analogous to plummeting unemployment rates. (I shouldn’t have included “bridge” and “plummet” in the same sentence, but what’s done is done.) Posted gas prices are analogous to inflation.

Inflation is felt by everyone. Overly precise gas prices are noticed by everyone. It seeps into the brain — everyone’s brain. A new bridge goes unnoticed by all but a few people who use it to get to where they’re going. In the same way, an economy that produced 678,000 new jobs last month won’t be noticed by Americans who don’t need a job.

Let’s remove a digit to the right of the decimal point before gasoline retailers are forced to add another digit to the left.

DeFazio made his mark as both a populist and a contrarian. He fights for what he believes in without losing sight of common sense. Fractional pricing has outlived its usefulness. As he inches toward his well-deserved retirement, DeFazio should roll up his sleeves one more time and demonstrate his can-undo spirit.

Americans don’t always manage endings very well. DeFazio’s career can end with an exclamation point. Put it where the nine-tenths of a penny used to be.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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