That Wolf Blitzer Tweet About D.C. Gas is Very Misleading
A simple fact check lays it bare.
Yesterday, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer sent out this tweet implying that gas prices in D.C. are clocking almost four-and-a-half bucks, which made me incredibly skeptical because I live in D.C. and haven’t seen prices like this anywhere I typically get gas.
So, I did some digging, and I found that although Mr. Blitzer’s pic here is authentic, it also happens to be extremely misleading. Let’s take a look.
From what I can tell, there are about 35-40 active Exxon gas station locations in D.C. proper. It was unclear to me if several of the locations I looked up are active, so I'm including those in this range.
Google is kind enough to provide gas price updates for individual stations through its map function.
Mr. Blitzer took a pic of a gas station where Regular is $4.30/gallon.
There are two Exxons in D.C. with that price: 200 Mass Ave. NE and 5521 Conn Ave. NE
My initial hunch was that he took this pic at 200 Mass Ave. NE, and using Google Street View, that was easy to confirm with this old picture of the location. More on this specific gas station in a second because a lot of D.C. folks know it well. (Thus, the hunch!)
There aren't a lot of gas stations close to this one. There's another Exxon to the south of this spot on Penn Ave. that's $4.50/gallon. Both of these are at heart of Capitol Hill. And if you were to only focus on these two stations, you'd think gas is bonkers expensive.
But if you look for ALL gas stations on Capitol Hill or in the general area around it, you find:
-- a Marathon 1.1 miles away with Regular for $3.56
-- a Shell that's less than 1.5 miles away where gas is $3.58 for Regular
-- a Valero 1.8m away w/ $3.54 for Regular
Remember that Exxon I mentioned where gas is $4.50?
Just down from it on Penn Ave. are three stations:
-- a bp where Regular is $3.70
-- a Sunoco where it's $3.60
-- another Exxon where it's $3.60
I have used all these stations at some point or another. Here’s a pic to show just how close they are in proximity to each other.
Gas in D.C. is most expensive on or near Capitol Hill or near Georgetown. But if you do, you know, a quick Google search, you can find relatively cheap gas in the District.
One such site (http://washingtondcgasprices.com) ranks low gas prices.
$2.97 at that bp on Georgia Ave. NW!!!
That site also ranks the highest gas prices in the District that have been recently updated (not all gas locations are necessarily updated daily).
See at the top? It's the 200 Mass Ave. NE location where Mr. Blitzer took his pic.
Let's talk more about this 200 Mass Ave. NE location.
It's across the street from the Union Station grounds (tourists/rental cars) and near the Capitol grounds (a concentration of higher incomes, obviously).
So, folks who don't know any better and folks who can easily afford it.
If you live in D.C. and live on Capitol Hill, especially, this particular Exxon is known as a "break glass in case of emergency" station for most residents. It's the place you can find easily in a pinch if you're running late or just need the convenience otherwise.
It is not, however, the gas station that most residents would claim as their primary. It is not the station you would tell a friend or family member to go to. It is not a station where, if you've lived here a while, you would present as representative of D.C. gas prices.
This gas station is well-known to D.C. folks. It's located not too far from where I live. I have used it a number of times but always for the convenience, not for the price. Most of the time, I use the stations on Penn Ave. I mentioned earlier.
The Exxon at 200 Mass Ave. NE is an incredibly shoddy example of rising gas prices as it does not reflect the general market. It's an outlier. It's a tourist trap. It's for D.C. folks who can afford the occasional splurge for convenience. And again, this is all well-known.
Mr. Blitzer is right that gas prices are increasing, of course. That's unsurprising given that we've all spent the past 20 months at home, driving far less. Folks are driving again. The market is responding to that.
And yet... the national avg. for Regular is $3.41
I grew up in a family where we didn't know if we'd be able to afford gas every week. I get the anxiety of seeing these rising prices. It's expensive. But it's very strange that Mr. Blitzer, knowing this Exxon is an outlier, would frame it as a good example of D.C. gas prices.
Mr. Blitzer is one of the most well-known news personalities in the country. He's influential. His tweet was an attempt at insight into everyday financial worries of ordinary Americans, which is why it's quite disappointing that it completely lacks context. It's misleading.
Here's a good primer on the question "who controls gas prices in the U.S." from Maite Knorr-Evans, a journalist who has clearly done the work in understanding gas prices and why they're rising. Give it a read!
And in the meantime, take a grain of salt with standalone tweets like the one put out by Mr. Blitzer — they typically lack context and seem to prioritize sensationalism over substance.
Hi, I’m Charlotte Clymer, and this is Charlotte’s Web Thoughts, my Substack. It’s completely free to access and read, but if you feel so moved to support my writing, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription: just $7/month or save money with the $70/annual sub. You can also go way above and beyond by becoming a Founding Member at $210.
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Charlotte, thank you for providing the journalistic honesty that Wolf Blitzer lacked.
I used that BP a lot. They also sell injera. I would love an electric car, saving now so I can do that sooner than later.