MONEY Odd Spending

Are Snowdrop Bulbs the Next Speculative Bubble?

Snowdrops growing on the edge of a woodland garden.
Clare Gainey—Alamy Snowdrops growing on the edge of a woodland garden.

Probably not—but they sure are popular.

In the early 1630s, the Dutch became obsessed with tulips. So obsessed that bulbs sold for 10 times the average annual salary of a skilled craftsman. At the peak of their popularity, bulbs were trading hands 10 times a day, in exchange for everything from two tons of butter to oxen to farmhouses. They were the big-ticket item of the Dutch Golden Age.

Until they weren’t. In February 1637, the people of Haarlem decided they’d had enough and stopped buying tulips at auction, sparking a panic throughout the country that resulted in the devaluation of the bulb. The market evaporated, and the world witnessed the bursting of one of its first economic bubbles.

Fast forward to today. A snowdrop (Galanthus) known as “Golden Fleece” just sold on the U.K.’s eBay website for a record £1,390 ($2,150), surpassing the previous record of $1,115. Last weekend, a variety known as “Treasure Island” sold for more than £500 (about $775). In 2014, the naming rights to a snowdrop varietal, along with a bulb, sold for $2,500. While it’s not nearly the same level of economic fervor the tulip generated—you can still get bulbs for less than $10—Galanthomania is definitely a thing.

What accounts for the tiny flower’s big price tag? For one thing, the dainty bloom is tough as nails, often braving the cold and snow to become a harbinger of spring. They are also easy for horticulturists to split, and years of cross-pollination have led to more than 1,500 varietals. Though less popular in the United States, they are celebrated in United Kingdom with festivals and special events throughout the beginning of the year.

According the Carolyn Walker, owner of Carolyn’s Shade Gardens in Bryn Mawr, Pa., there are fewer galanthophiles in the U.S., in part because of trade restrictions under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (C.I.T.E.S.). Buying a snowdrop bulb or plant from overseas requires detailed forms and permits, which increases the price, and hassle, of a sale.

But that doesn’t mean a galanthophile community hasn’t taken root stateside. When Walker, one of the nation’s few sellers, posts a new catalogue with snowdrop bulbs, she sells out in days. Though her bulbs typically top out at $89, she says that spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a bulb makes sense if you consider it a collector’s item.

People pay thousands of dollars for a bottle of wine, jewelry, or an item of designer clothing, she says. If you’re not into designer clothes but you’re really into Daphne’s Scissors or Lady Beatrix Stanley, splurging makes sense.

Are we about to see another Tulip Mania? Probably not.

“One specific element of Tulip Mania in the 1600s was that tulips were not traded directly,” said Markus Brunnermeier, a professor of economics at Princeton University. They were sold as forward contracts, or the promise of a bulb at a future date.

“In general, as long as speculation stays within a small group of (non-systemic) speculators, I would not be worried from a regulatory perspective,” he says.

Whew.

TIME Food & Drink

Global Coffee Consumption Projected to Soar Over Next Five Years

MakiEni—Flickr/Getty Images
MakiEni—Flickr/Getty Images

Populous nations like India and China are increasingly becoming fans of coffee

As more of the world turns to coffee, demand for the beverage will increase by nearly 25% over the coming five years, according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO).

“Consumption is increasing as societies in India, China and Latin America continue to be Westernized,” the ICO’s executive director Roberio Silva told the Wall Street Journal.

Currently, consumer intake of coffee stands at 141.6 million bags of beans; but by 2020, coffee demand is slated to rise to 175.8 million bags (each weighs approximately 132 lb.).

The high demand coincides with a period of tight coffee supplies globally and currency fluctuations in Brazil. Last year’s high prices were partly precipitated by a drought in the South American nation, currently the world’s largest coffee grower.

Global coffee production has been cut by 5.7 million bags this crop year because of the Brazilian drought, bad weather and a Central American plant fungus.

Other coffee growers like Vietnam, India and Indonesia are not expected to produce enough coffee to ensure a market stabilization next year.

[WSJ]

TIME Economics

Why the Nazis Were Desperate for Gold

Gold
Comstock Images / Getty Images

During World War II, the German Nazi government robbed more than 600 tons of European gold

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

It was the greatest robbery in world history. During World War II, the German Nazi government robbed more than 600 tons of European gold. That bullion was vitally important for the financing of the German army’s wars of conquest that started with the invasion of Austria in 1938. At that time, the gold was worth $600 million, but at today’s price for bullion it would be worth $22 billion.

Adolf Hitler had nothing but contempt for gold or money, believing that the only things that really mattered in politics and warfare were willpower and brute force. His top financial man was Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht, a respected banker who was responsible for ending the infamous German inflation after World War I. That still ranks as one of the worst in history. Schacht got his unusual middle name from his father, a failed German immigrant to the U.S. who greatly admired publisher Horace Greeley. Schacht was conceived in the U.S., but born in Germany just after his parents returned home.

Schacht advocated an economic policy known as autarky or self-sufficiency. Germany in World War I had been defeated largely by the British blockade that starved millions of Germans. Schacht’s autarky program was designed so that his country would never again be dependent upon another nation for vital products such as food or war materials. There were a few vital war products, though, that were not indigenous to the country. Weapons-grade steel is but one example. Germany had lots of low-quality iron ore, but it needed the mineral tungsten, which was plentiful in Spain and Portugal, to produce steel used in tanks and bombers. The Germans made synthetic fuel out of their own coal, but that was also not good enough for heavy bombers and tanks. When the Nazi army rolled into the Soviet Union in June 1941, it powered by Romanian oil. Ball bearings were also vital for the German war effort, and Berlin bought them from Sweden. Chromium was another crucial product, and that came from Turkey.

The Nazis had to pay for the goods in gold. Suppliers would not accept the German currency, but they would accept gold in payment. Throughout history, gold has always been the payment of last resort. Willy Sutton said he robbed banks because that was where the money was. The Nazis robbed central banks because that was where the gold was.

The first victim of Nazi aggression was Austria, which Berlin invaded in March 1938. The Germans picked up 91 tons of that country’s central bank gold in addition to 14 tons of personal bullion, which was taken mainly from Vienna’s large Jewish community.

The Nazis then systematically attempted to steal each nation’s bullion in each country it invaded. In Czechoslovakia and Holland they succeeded, but in others nations such as Poland and Norway local officials and soldiers made heroic efforts to keep their gold out of German hands, moving it to Canada, the U.S., Britain, or France. A group of Polish central bank officials in September 1939 took 81 tons south to Romania and with the help of the British through the Black Sea to Istanbul and then to Beirut, where France’s fastest war ship took it to Toulon and safety.

Just after midnight on April 9, 1940, a retired Norwegian colonel, who had just been called back to military service because of the fear of an invasion, spotted the German cruiser Blücher steaming toward Oslo. He immediately ordered an ancient Krupp cannon to fire at it. The ship soon sank, and a unit of Nazi soldiers aboard with orders to seize Norway’s gold were delayed. That gave a band of Norwegians that included the poet Nordahl Grieg time to start moving the country’s 50 tons of gold as well as King Håkon north to above the Arctic Circle. The Norwegian gold was shipped to Canada and the U.S., while the king spent the war in Britain.

Nazi gold reserves were running out in 1940, when the Germans got their biggest haul during the invasion of Western Europe. Berlin seized 205 tons from Belgium gold and 137 tons of Dutch gold. That financed the invasion of the Soviet Union a year later.

The Soviets were ill prepared for the attack because Stalin mistakenly believed that Hitler would honor their 1939 treaty. But eventually a week into the attack, the Soviet Politburo gathered together its wits and voted to ship their country’s three most precious items to the eastern side of the Ural Mountains for protection. Those were the Hermitage Museum artworks, the embalmed body of Lenin, and 3,000 tons of gold. All the valuables traveled together in trains with armed guards.

The last major Nazi booty of the war was 119 tons of Italian gold that German occupying forces moved first from Rome to Milan and then to an abandoned fortress on the Austrian border. Most of it went to Berlin in 1944.

With the war clearly coming to an end, Berlin officials in February 1945 sent two trainloads of gold and precious art works to a salt mine in Merkers, a village in central Germany. Two months later, U.S. troops stumbled on that treasure. They rescued, though, only 219 tons of gold out of the more than 600 tons the Nazis had stolen.

George M. Taber is the author of “Chasing Gold: The Incredible Story of How the Nazis Stole Europe’s Bullion (Pegasus Books, December 2014).

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 29

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The homeownership safety net may be unraveling for the next generation of seniors.

By Taz George and Ellen Seidman in MetroTrends

2. As we try to understand what draws Americans to ISIS, one judge hopes we can slow radicalization by putting recruits in halfway houses instead of jail.

By Dina Temple-Raston at National Public Radio

3. Phones for farmers: With a mobile phone, a developing world farmer can learn best practices, get weather data, follow crop prices and even access financial services.

By Gates Notes

4. A new food studies program at a Bronx community college will look at healthy eating and obesity in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

By Winnie Hu in the New York Times

5. A new initiative is pushing to get more women into the debate on global issues. Meet Foreign Policy Interrupted.

By Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME global health

What the Gates Foundation Has Achieved, 15 Years On

Sunny days: Melinda and Bill Gates in 2014, one year before their self-imposed deadline arrived
Scott Olson; Getty Images Sunny days: Melinda and Bill Gates in 2014, one year before their self-imposed deadline arrived

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Much has been done over the foundation's first decade and a half — with more still to do

There are a whole lot of things you may or may not get to do in the next 15 years, but a few of them you can take for granted: eating, for one. Having access to a bank, for another. And then there’s the simple business of not dying of a preventable or treatable disease. Good for you—and good for most of us in the developed world. But the developed world isn’t the whole story.

The bad—and familiar—news is that developing nations lag far behind in income, public health, food production, education and more. The much, much better news is that all of that is changing—and fast. The just-released Annual Letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation makes a good case for hoping there is still more to come.

The 2015 letter represents something of a threshold moment for the Foundation. It was in 2000 that the Gateses began their work and set themselves a very public 15-year deadline: show meaningful progress in narrowing the health, income and resource gap between the world’s privileged and underprivileged people, or be prepared to explain why not. So far, nobody—neither the Gates Foundation nor the numerous other global health groups like the World Health Organization and UNICEF—have much explaining to do.

The number of children under five who die each year worldwide has been nearly cut in half, from a high of nearly 13 million to 6.5 million today. Polio has been chased to the very brink of extinction, and elephantiasis, river blindness and Guinea worm are close behind. Drought-tolerant seeds are dramatically increasing agricultural yields; economies in the once-desperate countries in sub-Saharan Africa are now matching the developed world in rate of annual growth. Up to 70% of people across the developing world now have access to wireless service, making mobile banking possible—a luxury in the West but a necessity in places there is no other banking infrastructure.

The trick of course is that progress isn’t the same as success. The 13 million babies who were dying a year in the years before the Foundation began, for example, factored out to a horrific 35,000 every single day. Slashing that in half leaves you with 17,500—still an intolerable figure. For that reason and others, the Gateses are turning the 15-year chronometer back to zero, setting targets—and framing ways to achieve them—for 2030.

The most pressing concern involves those 17,500 kids. The overwhelming share of the recent reduction in mortality is due to better delivery of vaccines and treatments for diseases that are vastly less common or even nonexistent in much of the developed world—measles, pneumonia, malaria, cholera and other diarrheal ills. Those are still the cause of 60% of the remaining deaths. But the other 40%—or 2.6 million children—involve neonates, babies who die in the first 30 days of life and often on the very first day. The interventions in these cases can be remarkably simple.

“The baby must be kept warm immediately after birth, which too often doesn’t happen,” Melinda Gates told TIME. “This is basic skin-to-skin contact. Breast-feeding exclusively is the next big thing, as is basic cord care. The umbilical cord must be cut cleanly and kept clean to prevent infections.”

HIV may similarly be brought to heel, if not as easily as neonate mortality. A vaccine or a complete cure—one that would simply eliminate the virus from the body the way an antibiotic can eliminate a bacterium—remain the gold standards. But in much of the world, anti-retrovirals (ARVs) have served as what is known as a functional cure, allowing an infected person to live healthily and indefinitely while always carrying a bit of the pathogen. Gates looks forward to making ARVs more widely available, as well as to the development of other treatment protocols that we may not even be considering now.

“We’re already moving toward an HIV tipping point,” she says, “when the number of HIV-positive people in sub-Saharan Africa who are in treatment will exceed the number of people becoming newly infected.”

Food security is another achievable goal. Even as Africa remains heavily agrarian—70% of people in the sub-Saharan region are farmers compared to 2% in the U.S.—yields remain low. An acre of farmland here in America may produce 150 bushels of corn; in Africa it’s just 30. The problem is largely rooted in our increasingly unstable climate, with severe droughts burning out harvests or heavy rainstorms destroying them.

“Millions of people eat rice in Africa,” says Gates, “and rice has to be kept much wetter than other crops. At the equator it’s staying drier longer, but when the rains do come, they hit harder.”

In the case of rice and corn and all other crops, the answer is seeds engineered for the conditions in which they will have to grow, not for the more forgiving farmlands of the West. In Tanzania, site-specific seed corn has been made available and is already changing lives. “That seed,” one farmer told Gates when she visited in 2012, “made the difference between hunger and prosperity.”

Finally comes banking. Across Africa, only 37% of people are part of the formal banking system, but up to 90%, depending on the area, are part of the M-Pesa network—a mobile banking link accessible via cellphone. The Pesa part of the name is Swahili for money and the M is simply for mobile.

“Today too many people put their money in a cow or in jewelry,” Gates says. “But it’s impossible to take just a little of that money out. If someone gets sick or you have another emergency, you simply sell the cow.” Mobile banking changes all of that, making it much easier to save—and in a part of the world where even $1 set aside a day can mean economic security, that’s a very big deal.

Nothing about the past 15 years guarantees that the next 15 will see as much progress. The doctrine of low-hanging fruit means that in almost all enterprises, the early successes come easier. But 15 years is a smart timeframe. It’s far enough away that it creates room for different strategies to be tried and fail before one succeeds, but it’s close enough that you still can’t afford to waste the time you have. Wasting time, clearly, is not something the folks at the Gates Foundation have been doing so far, and they likely won’t in the 15 years to come either.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME China

China’s Economy Registers Weakest Economic Growth in 24 Years

CHINA-STOCKS
AFP/Getty Images A stock investor gestures as he checks share prices at a securities firm in Fuyang, China, on Jan. 19, 2015

Beijing said the country’s economic performance in 2014 was the “new normal”

China’s economy expanded by just 7.4% in 2014, undercutting earlier official forecasts and registering the Asian superpower’s weakest economic growth in 24 years, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday.

Late last year, authorities released official forecasts putting growth in 2014 at 7.5%. Tuesday’s revelation marked the first time in 16 years that the country’s economic performance missed the government’s annual target. However, authorities have largely tried to paper over the misstep.

“China has entered a new normal of economic growth,” Li Baodong, a Vice Foreign Minister, told reporters on Friday, according to Agence France-Presse. “That is to say we are going through structural adjustment and the structural adjustment is progressing steadily.”

Yet experts were not so quick to downplay China’s soaring debt, weak and volatile real estate market and plummeting domestic demand.

“Among all the problems, the biggest one is low domestic demand and the other is overcapacity. And when the global economy is not great, exporting is affected,” Chenggang Xu, a professor in economic development at the University of Hong Kong, tells TIME. “In the near future, we’ll see it slowdown further.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted additional cooling of the world’s most populous nation’s economy in 2015, and suggested that growth would drop well below 7%, reverberating in markets across the region.

Despite efforts by Beijing to reduce vulnerabilities from recent rapid credit and investment growth, this looming slump “is affecting the rest of Asia,” said the IMF report on Tuesday.

The release of China’s economic data for 2014 coincided with revised predictions on global economic growth from the IMF. On Tuesday, the institution ratcheted down expectations for the world’s economy in 2015, forecasting that growth this year would hover around 3.5%, down from their initial estimate of 3.8%.

TIME Economics

Richest 1% to Boast More Wealth Than Rest of World by 2016

In 2014, the bottom 80% controlled only 5.5% of the world's wealth

Global income inequality is headed for a new milestone with the world’s richest 1% on track to control more wealth than everyone else on the planet by 2016, according to an Oxfam International report released Monday.

The charity also warns that spiraling inequality hampers the fight against global poverty at a time when 1 in 9 people does not have enough to eat and more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25 per day.

“Oxfam’s report is just the latest evidence that inequality has reached shocking extremes, and continues to grow. It is time for the global leaders of modern capitalism, in addition to our politicians, to work to change the system to make it more inclusive, more equitable and more sustainable,” said Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima.

In 2014, the ultra-rich first percentile held 48% of the world’s income. By contrast, the poorest 80% of the world’s population only controlled a paltry 5.5% of its wealth, according to the report.

The study was published a day before U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to announce a significant middle-class tax cut at his State of the Union address.

TIME Economics

The World Bank Reduces Global Growth Forecasts for 2015 and 2016

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Getty Images

The bank’s chief economist says the U.S. is unable to drive global recovery alone

The World Bank adjusted previous forecasts for economic growth globally in a bi-annual report published this week, saying tougher times likely lie ahead.

The institution now believes the international economy will expand by just 3 percent this year and 3.3 percent in 2016, after predicting in June that growth would hover around 3.4 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.

While the U.S. economy appears to performing strongly, the bank’s chief economist Kaushik Basu warned that this alone would not be enough to float markets around the globe.

“The global economy is running on a single engine,” Basu told reporters. “This does not make for a rosy outlook.”

See the report highlights here.

TIME Opinion

History Shows How 2 Million Workers Lost Rights

US-LABOR-PROTEST-WAGE
Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images Fast food workers, healthcare workers and their supporters march to demand an increase of the minimum wage, in Los Angeles on Dec. 4, 2014

Home attendants and aides have historically been singled out for denial of basic labor rights

Over the last year, the nation has seen a tumultuous wave of low-wage workers contesting terms of employment that perpetually leave them impoverished and economically insecure. It’s a fight in which home-care workers—one of the fastest growing labor forces—have long participated, as home attendants and aides have historically been singled out for denial of basic labor rights. Their work is becoming ever more important in our economy, with over 40 million elderly Americans today and baby boomers aging into their 70s and 80s; the demand for such workers is projected to nearly double over the next seven years. And yet, this week a federal judge is likely to put up just the latest obstacle to their receiving the minimum wage and overtime compensation granted to other workers through the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The story of how home-care workers ended up without rights begins in the Great Depression. Home care first originated as a distinct occupation during the New Deal, and evolved after World War II as part of welfare and health policy aimed at developing alternatives to institutionalization of the elderly and people with disabilities. Prior to the mid-1970s, public agencies provided or coordinated homemaker and home-attendant services. Fiscal constraints subsequently led state and local governments to contract home care first to non-profit and later to for-profit agencies. In 1974, Congress extended FLSA wage and hour standards to long-excluded private household workers. A year later, however, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) interpreted the new amendment to exempt home-care workers, even employees of for-profit entities, by misclassifying them as elder companions, akin to babysitters. It provided no explicit reasoning for introducing this new terminology, beyond the need for uniform definitions of domestic service and employer. This exclusion became known as the “companionship rule.”

The rule was a boon for employers. Amid nursing-home scandals and an emergent disability-rights movement, demand for home-based care burgeoned, but the women actually performing the labor were invisible. A distinct home-health industry began to grow following the 1975 exemption, as the rule freed staffing and home-health agencies from paying minimum wages and overtime. Opening Medicaid and other programs to for-profit providers after 1980 led to a tenfold increase in for-profit agencies during the next half decade. By 2000, for-profit groups employed over 60 per cent of all workers. Today, the home franchise industry is worth $90 billion.

Care workers, however, were never just casual friendly neighbors; even before this expansion, home-care workers were middle-aged, disproportionately African American, female wage earners—neither nurse nor maid, but a combination of both. Despite changes in their title since the 1930s, these workers always performed a combination of bodily care work (bathing, dressing, feeding) and housekeeping necessary to maintain someone at home. They increasingly have become a trained workforce.

With the expansion of the industry, service sector unions and domestic worker associations lobbied to change the “companionship rule.” Recently, they seemed to have won: After extensive public comment, the DOL issued a new rule in September of 2013, which would have finally included home-care workers under FLSA coverage. The Obama Administration also updated the definition of domestic service to match the job as performed by nearly 2 million workers who belong to one of the fastest growing, but lowest paid, occupations, with median hourly wages under $10. It recognized aid with activities of daily living as care, and care as a form of domestic labor. Whereas companionship services had previously included even those who spent more than 20 hours engaged in care, the new rule narrowed the meaning of companionship to mere “fellowship and protection” in order to close the loophole that for-profit agencies were deploying to profit by underpaying live-in home attendants. It was to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, though enforcement was delayed until June.

Then, in late December, at the urging of for-profit home care franchise operators, led by the Home Care Association of America, Judge Richard J. Leon (a George W. Bush appointee) of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down a key element of the revision. The decision vacated the responsibility of third-party employers (such as home-care businesses) to pay minimum wage and overtime for so-called companionship services. In his opinion, the judge charged the DOL with “arrogance,” “unprecedented authority” and “a wholesale abrogation of Congress’s authority in this area.”

A historical perspective suggests otherwise. In the 1970s, Congress never intended to enhance corporate profits by narrowing wage and hour protections; to the contrary, it expanded them. Granted, the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare refused “to include within the terms ‘domestic service’ such activities as babysitting and acting as a companion”—but it distinguished teenage sitters and friendly visitors from domestic workers by adding “casual” to those exempted from labor standards. It explicitly did not refer to “regular breadwinners,” those “responsible for their families.” Moreover, the Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed the supposition that where Congressional intent is ambiguous, executive agencies—including the DOL—have leeway. In the 2007 case Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke, a unanimous Supreme Court commended the expertise of the agency to determine the meaning of undefined phrases like “domestic service employment” and “companionship services.”

During oral argument in Coke, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg suggested that the proper way to amend the exemption was either a new rule through the DOL, which is what ended up happening, or legislation. Judge Leon reads back Congressional intent from the fact that legislative fixes have stalled in committee in the years following Coke. But there are many reasons why bills go nowhere in our gridlocked government.

The temporary restraining order from Judge Leon effectively blocked implementation of the new DOL rule in totality, setting off a ripple effect against this primarily female workforce. California, for example, instantly suspended implementation for some 80,000 workers. Then on Jan. 9, he heard oral arguments on whether to strike down the redefinition of the companionship classification. Given his prior decisions, the bet is that his next ruling on Jan. 14 will do so. Continuous litigation is in the offering, as the DOL is likely to appeal his decisions all the way to the Supreme Court.

For over 40 years, we’ve relied on cheap labor for care. The structure of home-care has exemplified a broader trend of reconfiguring work throughout the economy as casualized and low-waged, outside of labor standards and immune from unionization. But stopping the correction of this injustice means distorting history—and devaluing the care that someday most of us will need.

Eileen Boris is Hull Professor of Feminist Studies and Professor of History, Black Studies, and Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Jennifer Klein is Professor of History at Yale and a Public Voices Fellow. They are the authors of Caring For America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State.

TIME energy

Gas Is Cheaper Than It’s Been in 5 Years

Gas prices in the United States have hit their lowest level since April of 2009, part of the plunge in global oil prices that’s been underway since June.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. has fallen 27 cents in the past three weeks, down to $2.20 a gallon as of Jan. 9, Reuters reports. The data comes from a Lundberg study released on Sunday, which also says that prices in the U.S. are down more than $1.14 a gallon from the same period a year ago.

Some experts speculate that oil prices will rise again in 2015, but a Saudi prince said in a new interview out Sunday that the days of $100-a-barrel oil aren’t coming back.

Read next: A Plane from New York to London Almost Went Supersonic

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