Bulletins

The gas prices are too damn high

Inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are causing pain at the pump. Here's what we know and the solutions we have.

A person pumping gas.

Gas prices are around 70% higher than they were a year ago.

Photo: Robert Gauthier via Getty Images

Surging gas prices have sent ripple effects throughout the U.S. economy. Companies including Uber and Lyft are bumping rates to offset prices for drivers, while government officials are pushing through relief packages to help struggling Americans.

If you want to get an electric vehicle to avoid pain at the pump, you’re not alone. But the EV industry can’t catch a break either. Inflation and the cost of materials are sending prices skyrocketing, and many customers who want an EV are being put on a waitlist.

Bikes are still an option as is public transit if you’re stuck playing the EV waiting game and sick of coughing up tons of money at the pump. But there are a few other climate tech solutions to help fight soaring gas prices. Here’s everything you should know about why gas prices are high, why EV costs are up and what in the world we can do about it.


Why are gas prices so high?

Gas prices have reached astronomical heights. Though the average dipped slightly to $4.24 per gallon for regular unleaded gas from its record high of $4.33, it is still around 70% higher than it was a year ago.

Rising gas prices are generally tied to geopolitical events (i.e. Russia's invasion of Ukraine). The U.S. banned imports of Russian oil, as well as liquefied natural gas and coal, on March 8. Though most of Russia’s oil goes to Europe and Asia, oil is priced through a global market. The total supply of oil has diminished amid sanctions against Russia, but demand has stayed the same, leading to gas costing upwards of $7 at some stations in Los Angeles.

How much longer will this last?

Gas prices aren’t going down any time soon. Energy Intelligence research director Abhi Rajendran predicts they may decrease by the third quarter of this year if “there is some pathway to resolution in the Russia/Ukraine situation, plus an Iran nuclear deal.”

“The other factor that could push prices down is [if] the world tipped into a recession that ultimately pulls oil prices down,” Rajendran said.

But in order to really decrease prices, there needs to be more supply to meet the demand, which Rajendran said is “unlikely to happen materially in 2022, and more possible in 2023.” That would also not be great, given that the only way to mitigate climate change is to reduce dependence on oil and gas, not increase supply. (And recent research shows we need to reduce production ASAP.)

In the next few weeks, gas prices will likely remain the same or slightly higher, and could reach a national average of $4.50 per gallon in the coming months, Rajendran said.

Why are electrical vehicle prices also going up?

Gas isn't the only thing that's gotten pricey. The EV industry is having a hard time with inflation and the cost of materials.

For Tesla, inflation is the main issue. Tesla has upped its prices — twice. The company most recently bumped up prices across its entire range of EVs between 5% and 10%, which brought up the price of its cheapest car from $44,990 to $46,990. “Tesla & SpaceX are seeing significant recent inflation pressure in raw materials & logistics," Elon Musk tweeted recently.

Rivian has needed to increase prices too, which hasn’t sat well with customers. The company raised prices by more than a whopping $12,000 — then quickly reversed course, at least for reservation holders, after a wave of customer backlash. Rivian executives said they needed to increase prices because of inflation and the cost of materials.

One of those materials is nickel, which is key for producing EV batteries and has been on a rollercoaster ride this month. Sanctions on Russia, which is a massive supplier of nickel, are to blame for the immediate spike in prices, but the issue has also been a long time coming. The move toward renewables and clean energy tech is also causing a supply crunch.

How are high gas prices affecting delivery services?

Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing and delivery services are trying to make it easier for drivers to pay for gas by adding fees to rides and offering cash back to drivers. The response from drivers has been decidedly mixed.

Uber and Lyft added surcharges for car rides that will go straight to the drivers’ wallets, and Uber specifically is encouraging drivers to switch to EVs (as if it were that easy). Instacart followed shortly after, tacking on an additional 40 cents to each order. Separately, Lyft and DoorDash are providing drivers with cards that offer cash back on gas.

Some workers don’t think the surcharges are enough. A petition on coworker.org is urging the delivery companies to charge customers even more for rides and for companies to pocket less money from fares. “Gas prices are driving us out of the rideshare industry. We need a rate increase!” the petition states.

Meanwhile, Amazon Flex drivers want the company to do something, anything to offset gas prices. The drivers — who are independent contractors who work for Amazon through an app — rallied last week to ask Amazon to follow Uber, Lyft and others in helping them pay for gas.

What are governments doing to address high gas prices?

In California, where gas prices have topped $7 per gallon in some places, Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a relief package that includes $9 billion in direct payments to car owners — including those who drive EVs — as well as $750 million for free or reduced public transit grants. As part of the gas price relief program, car owners would receive a $400 rebate per registered vehicle (up to two cars per person) as soon as July.

Nationally, House Democrats have suggested financial relief for struggling Americans, but the proposals have reportedly gone nowhere in Congress and it’s unlikely a program similar to California’s would pass.

Meanwhile, President Biden is reportedly considering a variety of ways to reduce gas prices at the pump, including a gas tax holiday and rebates for consumers.

"The president and our national security team and our economic team are working overtime right now to evaluate and examine a range of domestic options," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said this week.

What are the climate tech solutions to high gas prices?

The best way to beat high gas prices is to use less — or none — in the first place. These solutions are going to sound awfully familiar if you’ve been thinking about how to address the climate crisis (and really, who isn’t these days?). The good news is the world has a lot of the technology we need to stop wasting money on gas. The bad news is not all of them are an easy flip of the switch. And some are becoming more expensive due to supply chain issues.

For most of us, filling up at the pump is the most obvious pain point. So it follows that electric vehicles are among the most effective means to deal with high gas prices, with hybrids being a close second. The catch is that EVs have become a hot ticket, and the aforementioned price spikes. Not ideal! If only there were some proposal, some policy that included tax credits to make EVs more affordable that Congress could pass …


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We know there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Still, the idea that many corporate benefits aren’t always a benefit recently touched a nerve on Twitter.

“Been thinking about anti-perks in tech jobs. What perks *sound* good but are a hard no from you?”

The tweet came from Jessica Rose, a developer relations advocate, founder of a meetup series for programmers and aspiring programmers and co-founder of Trans*Code, a hacker org devoted to drawing attention to transgender issues and opportunities.

Rose’s “hard no” was to those so-called benefits that have been around since time immemorial (or at least since the dot-com era). “Don't give me food or hammocks or video games, just let me work remotely or go home on time,” said Rose.

'Don’t touch me'

The tweet thread was full of varied responses, but the paradox of unlimited vacation was the clear favorite. “Wow, people are just so suspicious about unlimited paid time off,” Rose told Protocol when we caught up with her to ask about the tweet.

Other workers balked at in-office massages (“don’t touch me”), free booze, open-plan offices (did anyone in the history of the world ever call this a benefit?), fitness rooms, nap rooms, escape rooms (really any rooms), and something called “blameless retrospectives.” Um, what?

If employees are going to be suspicious of whatever perks you offer, why offer any perks at all?

“So I'm aware of how wonderfully spoiled it is to complain about perks being given out in some kinds of tech workplaces,” said Rose. “I'm the most unimpressed by ‘perks’ which either directly undermine employment rights (like unlimited paid time off can do in some regions) or are intended to throw work/life balance out of kilter in the workplace's favor.”

Unlimited or flexible vacation time can work, but it helps when the culture is one where people are encouraged to take time off and experts agree that mandatory minimums go a long way in helping create that kind of culture.

Your best interests or mine? Why can’t it be both? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

A director of engineering at Google who formerly worked at Microsoft and Zillow called employer-sponsored coaching an anti-perk. “I’ll spring for a coach who is looking out for my best interests, not the company’s, thanks,” she said, adding, “I know I am lucky to be offered this, but it always feels like a trap.”

There’s good reason to be at least a little wary of these programs. Last year Protocol reported that when tech companies work with coaching programs like BetterUp and Bravely the conversations themselves are confidential, but the company often receives aggregated reports on the issues workers are expressing in general, the topics they’re discussing, what's going well for them at work, and what's not.

When Protocol spoke to Twilio’s VP of talent management Andrew Wilhelms about the company's coaching partnership, Wilhelms explained that BetterUp provides a set of Twilio-specific priorities to coaches and Twilio can update those priorities and goals based on what kind of culture change the company needs to see.

This might feel overly controlling, or it might be a great way to help change a company’s culture for the better, especially if a majority of employees are feeling stressed and burned out and are more likely to tell this to a coach than their manager. Twilio told Protocol that 99% of the employees who used the coaching service last year said the sessions were a valuable use of their time, and that 94% said the sessions made them more effective at their job.

“Thoughtful, meaningful perks can benefit both employers and team members, by helping keep their team members happy and hopefully keep them in their role for longer,” Rose said.

Free SunChips < values-based work culture

Research shows that today’s employees don’t want snacks as much as they want work that aligns with their values, and that extends to benefits.

  • “I love work perks that demonstrate an employer's ethics and commitment to meaningfully supporting their team members,” said Rose.
  • These benefits can include big structural benefits like location-agnostic pay and support for different kinds of employee leave, but also smaller things like “sending people a small bonus on their birthday to buy a cake,” Rose added.
  • Rose also looks for “employers who don't subcontract out cleaning or security staff, to make sure that all of their team members get access to the same kinds of pay and support.”

What your 'perks' say about your corporate culture

Some “anti-perks” are just common decency and respect, such as believing your employees are telling the truth when they call in sick. In response to Rose’s prompt, one senior system admin pointed out a job listing that offers an “honor-based sick leave policy” in addition to its “commitment to an open, inclusive and diverse work culture.”

And think twice about listing your game room in your job description, tweeted a product designer from Miro:

“When they advertise a ping-pong table in the job listing, it's a huge 🚩 for me. And I love ping-pong. If a silly perk like this [is] such a relevant part of your benefits package, that says a lot about what the company values, and likely its culture."

A version of this story appeared in Protocol's Workplace newsletter. Sign up here to get it in your inbox three times a week.

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Companies that selectively enforce attendance requirements may wind up with unfair outcomes, Kropp said.

“If you have a mandated set of days where you have to come to the office, but it’s unevenly enforced across the company, then you run into issues of fairness,” Kropp said. “That just creates more variability across the company, which then creates more risk as well in terms of that inconsistency.”

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Amazon falls into that category. As Andy Jassy put it at the Code Conference on Wednesday, Amazon doesn’t have a plan to force employees back to the office: “We’re going to proceed adaptively as we learn.”

A version of this story appeared in Protocol's Workplace newsletter. Sign up here to get it in your inbox three times a week.

If you truly want to gauge a company’s culture before accepting a job offer, you have to become a bit of a sleuth. A journalist, even. Troll Blind and Glassdoor. Browse LinkedIn for current employees who seem trustworthy, or former employees who seem not to have an agenda.

But not everyone has the time to investigate companies in this way. Instead, they may rely on company-sponsored chats with current employees.

  • Ian Royer, a public relations specialist with Amazon Canada, took Amazon up on its “Candid Chats” program that connects candidates with members of employee resource groups.
  • He was on a mission to determine whether he fit with Amazon’s culture. “I am at a point in my career where when I do interviews, I interview for my fit, not the company,” Royer said.
  • Royer spoke with representatives from Amazon’s Black Employee Network and LGBTQ group Glamazon after encouragement from his recruiter. Those conversations ultimately won him over.

Steve McElfresh, founder of HR Futures, said it’s worth it for employers to offer to connect candidates with current employees. The more information, the more helpful to candidates. Still, it’s impossible for company-sponsored candidate-employee chats to be completely candid. Those chats are not entirely trustworthy.

  • “In most cases you’ve got to assume they’re using a stable of people who are prepped and primed to be positive about the company,” McElfresh said. “There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that, but I think you've got to take it with a grain of salt.”

For those who want to connect with employees on their own, scouring LinkedIn and similar sites might be the best option. Professional platform Candor, a new startup trying to be the “more authentic LinkedIn,” was built with job sleuthing in mind.

  • “Especially in a remote world, it's so hard to figure out and so hard to get to know people and know if that culture fit is going to be there at your next opportunity,” said Candor founder Kelsey Bishop.
  • Candor profiles look kind of like corporate mood boards, with descriptors like “my core values,” “teammates that really inspire me” and “things that motivate me.” Bishop said the service is meant for casual networking, and to help people suss out the working styles of their potential future co-workers.

Bishop added that anonymous platforms can quickly turn toxic, hence Candor’s model with private profiles. But without anonymity, how candid will someone really be?

  • “As a candidate, you have to dig beyond what’s publicly available,” McElfresh said. “I would certainly be looking for more of the anonymous material.”
  • On the other hand, you can’t verify the identity, and therefore validity, of anonymous reviews. “The problem with anonymous material is you get the extremes,” McElfresh said. “You get people who are clearly unhappy, resentful and are almost assuredly overrepresented.”

The most prepared candidates will do all of the above. Just perusing Glassdoor or talking to one company-sponsored employee won’t give you the full picture. You’ve got to really do your research to figure out the fit.

A version of this story appeared in Protocol's Workplace newsletter. Sign up here to get it in your inbox three times a week.

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  • The way in which the FDA responds to harmful viral videos might not be that effective anyway: The ones making the posts go viral — kids — probably aren’t following government alerts, Blevins said. “I would really encourage these agencies to think about being a little more creative in how they respond,” he said.
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It’s not just the government; pediatricians, schools, and other organizations are aware of the dangers of social media trends and are trying to catch on to them quickly. But word spreads fast, and in order for the government’s warnings to be effective, they need to happen sooner.

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Bulletins