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Fact check: Viral image does not show gas prices the day Biden took office

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The claim: Regular gas was below $2 per gallon the day President Joe Biden took office

Ever before President Joe Biden took office, critics and conservative pundits claimed his policies would result in higher gasoline costs.

Experts say presidents have little control over gas and diesel prices, but that hasn't stopped this narrative from spreading during Biden's first year in office.

Now, one viral photo purports to show gas prices below $2 a gallon on Jan. 20, the day Biden was inaugurated.

The image, from an Oct. 6 Facebook photo, shows an Exxon gas station sign with regular gas at $1.84, plus at $1.89 and supreme at $2.02. The signboard below the prices reads, "Just kidding those were out (sic) prices the day Biden took office." The post accumulated more than 900 shares in less than a week.

After being fact-checked for her post, the user updated the caption to say gas prices in her area were below $2 per gallon before Biden took office.

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Users in the comments also accused Biden of being responsible for rising gas prices, writing, "He's really got those prices jumping!" and "Joe Biden was a huge mistake."

But this image isn't real, and the assumptions behind it are wrong. Gas prices have hit a 7-year high, however, presidents have little to no impact on gas prices, experts say.

Image doesn't show gas prices

The Exxon gas station sign seen in the image was created using an online meme generator.

The background and layout of the gas station sign seen in the photo reveals it was created using an online template in which people can insert their own gas prices and text into an Exxon gas station sign. Fact-checkers have repeatedly debunked altered photos of signs created using such online generators.

USA TODAY has previously debunked images claiming to show gas stations in the U.S. with high fuel costs.

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The Facebook user who shared the photo did not return a request for comment about the state she was referencing, so USA TODAY is unable to address the claim that the altered image nevertheless reflected local prices at the time. But the prices shown aren't in line with national averages.

The national average retail price for a regular gallon of gas the week Biden was inaugurated, which ended Jan. 25, was $2.39, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Prices had dropped below $2 per gallon amid the COVID-19 shutdowns as refineries ran out of places to put fuel.

Biden not responsible for high gas prices

Fuel prices have increased since January, but the post inaccurately claims Biden's policies are to blame for the spike.

Experts say key reasons for the surge include rising crude oil prices, increasing demand amid the economic recovery and production limitations dating back to cuts in production early on in the pandemic.

The upward trend in fuel costs began months before Biden took office. Data from GasBuddy shows gasoline prices dropped early on in the pandemic, bottoming out around $1.80 per gallon in May 2020. Prices then steadily marched upward through the end of President Donald Trump's term and the start of Biden's.

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Some people claim the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline and other energy policies drove up fuel prices, but experts previously told USA TODAY there is no short-term connection.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that regular gas was below $2 per gallon the day Biden was inaugurated. Data shows the average price of a regular gallon of gas was $2.39 the week ending in Jan. 25. The photo in the post was created using an online template that allows you to insert your own gas station prices and signs.

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Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Regular gas was not below $2 the day Biden took office

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