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Sky-high gas prices shown in viral gas sign photo aren’t real

A viral photo of ultra-high gas prices on a sign in Lancaster, California, went viral in November 2021 and elicited partisan critiques of President Joe Biden. But the sign in the photo wasn’t displaying actual prices. Let’s take a look at the facts.

A tweet that says, “Lancaster California …” with a photo of a gas station sign with prices ranging from $6.99 to $9.90 a gallon. The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “OUT OF CONTEXT.”
The gas prices shown in this photo do not reflect the actual gas prices in Lancaster, California, in November 2021.
The sign in the photo is from a gas station that was under construction at the time.
Displaying unusually high prices is a common practice at gas stations that aren’t selling gas to prevent drivers from stopping at them — and have sparked similar rumors in the past.

NewsLit takeaway

As we have pointed out before, rumors about gas prices, including photos of gas station signs, are common. Many people pay close attention to the cost of gas in their everyday lives, which makes the subject ripe for eliciting strong emotional responses — especially when mixed with partisan politics. (Reminder: Partisans are fond of blaming the president for gas prices when their party isn’t in office — even though “presidents don’t actually have much effect on the prices.”) Gas prices were severely depressed by the pandemic for most of 2020 — and as pandemic conditions improved at the start of the Biden administration, prices went up as demand spiked and supply remained low. The higher prices continue to generate misleading and exaggerated social media posts.

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