The government of Jair Bolsonaro (PL) reached two opposing records: the lowest and the highest price of gasoline in more than two decades. In May 2020, the liter of fuel reached its lowest value since July 2001: R$ 3.82, on average (or R$ 4.52, in values adjusted for inflation). In November 2021, gasoline reached a maximum of R$6.74 (R$7.07 today). The data are from the ANP (Agência Nacional do Petróleo, Gás Natural e Biocombustíveis), which began conducting this price survey in 2001.
To carry out this survey, the UOL analyzed all the monthly averages of gasoline prices verified by the ANP in the last 21 years, separating the highest and lowest values of each year and organizing them by government —Fernando Henrique Cardoso (PSDB), Lula (PT), Dilma Rousseff (PT) , Michel Temer (MDB) and Jair Bolsonaro. Then, he corrected all prices by the IPCA (Broad Consumer Price Index) accumulated until March of this year, the last available data. (See the chart below)
The update of all values indicates that the lowest level since 2001 was reached in May 2020, Bolsonaro’s second year in office, when gasoline cost R$3.82 on average (R$4.52 today). At that time, many countries – including Brazil – had already adopted confinement policies (lockdown) to contain the advance of covid-19, which slowed the economy and pulled prices down worldwide. But it didn’t last long: three months later, in August, the liter of fuel was already at R$ 4.24 (R$ 5.01 now).
The highest value was reached in November 2021, when the average price of gasoline reached R$6.74 (R$7.07 corrected). In no other government since 2001 has the corrected price of a liter of fuel exceeded the R$ 7 mark. The closest to that was the R$ 2.22 verified in February 2003, the first year of Lula’s term, which corresponds to R$ $6.72 currently.
Soaring from 64% in 3 years
Percentage-wise, the Bolsonaro government also recorded a greater price spike than its predecessors. From January 2019 to March 2022, gasoline went from R$4.27 to R$7.01 — a 64.2% increase in three years and three months. In the same period, accumulated inflation was 23.83%, according to the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics). (See the numbers below)
Then, proportionally, comes the final period of the FHC administration, when the liter of fuel went from R$ 1.68 in July 2001 to R$ 2 in December 2002 (increase of 19.04%). In this year and a half, registered inflation was 17.69%.
Finally, the Temer, Dilma and Lula governments appear, still considering the high percentage/year ratio. Check all the numbers:
Jair Bolsonaro: increase of 64.2% in 3 years and 3 months (from R$ 4.27 to R$ 7.01), with inflation of 23.83%; FHC: increase of 19.04% in 1 year and half (from R$1.68 to R$2), with inflation of 17.69%;Michel Temer: increase of 40.66% in 2 years and 7 months (from R$3.65 to R$4.37 ), with inflation of 9.1%; Dilma Rousseff: increase of 40.66% in 5 years and 5 months (from R$ 2.61 to R$ 3.67), with inflation of 46.29%; Lula: increase of 20.46% in 8 years (from R$ 2.16 to R$ 2.60), with inflation of 56.68%;
The survey carried out by UOL considers gasoline prices up to March (R$ 7.01) because it is the month of the last available inflation data. But the ANP surveys are weekly, and the latest balance —for the period between April 17 and 23— indicates that the fuel is already worth R$ 7.27, on average, at the pumps.
Last week, the most expensive gasoline was found in the city of São Paulo (SP), where the liter used to cost R$ 8.60.
Why is gasoline expensive in Brazil?
Experts point to different reasons for the high price of gasoline. There was an increase of 18.8% determined by Petrobras in March. The instability caused by the Ukraine war is one of the reasons for this rise.
Petrobras’ price parity policy determines that the values here have to follow the oil situation abroad, which also causes frequent increases.
Taxes in the country are also considered a pressure factor on fuel prices. Read here in detail what experts say about the reason for the high fuel prices
Government and Petrobras
Petrobras has been under pressure from different governments because of fuel prices.
In 2014 and 2015, under Dilma’s government, before adopting the current pricing policy, the company kept prices frozen at refineries, even with the barrel of oil on the rise abroad, with the aim of containing inflation in the country. The measure was one of the main responsible for Petrobras’ four years of losses between 2014 and 2017, at the end of the Dilma government and the beginning of the Temer government.
More recently, in April 2019, Bolsonaro pressured Petrobras to cancel a 5.7% increase in diesel at refineries — a nod to truckers, an important part of his support base. On the same day, the state-owned company’s shares on the Brazilian Stock Exchange, B3, plummeted more than 8%.
“With Dilma, the control [na Petrobras] it came from the top down, it was a government decision to keep prices fixed by force. In the case of Bolsonaro, it was his individual decision, and from the bottom up, because of pressure from a sector. [os caminhoneiros]”, I said to UOL Álvaro Frasson, now director of BTG Pactual, in April 2019.
In February 2021, Bolsonaro announced that he would not renew the mandate of then-President of Petrobras, Roberto Castello Branco, because he was dissatisfied with the company’s pricing policy. His replacement, Joaquim Silva e Luna, was fired in March 2022 for the same reason. The general was succeeded by José Mauro Coelho, who took office on the 14th.
government does not comment
wanted by UOL to comment on the record in gasoline prices and the pressure on Petrobras, the government had not yet expressed itself until the publication of this text.