Infographic: What's Behind The Gas Prices You Pay At The Pump?

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Infographic: 'What's Driving Gas Prices' from One Block Off the Grid

Infographic: 'What's Driving Gas Prices' from One Block Off the Grid

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We've said it before, and we'll likely say it again: We love a good infographic (here, here, and here, for instance).

Today's example covers what makes up the price of each gallon of gasoline that you buy.

Not surprisingly, it includes the cost of the actual refined hydrocarbon that originated as dead dinosaurs (or other organic matter) deep below the surface of the earth and was located, extracted, transported, refined, transported again, and pumped into an underground tank before it sloshed into your car.

Crude oil makes up about two-thirds of the cost, and refining adds another 12 percent. Distribution and marketing adds a further 11 percent.

Then there are taxes, surprise, surprise. They average 11 percent although, as the graphic notes, they can vary significantly.

The Federal gas tax, which hasn't changed in the better part of two decades, is capped at less than 20 cents a gallon, and raising it is considered a non-starter in the current political environment despite support for doing so from a remarkable number of CEOs including, most recently, GM CEO Dan Akerson.

It goes toward building and maintaining Federally funded roads.Thus far, only a few legislators have dared to suggest that gas taxes go up with higher CAFE mileage standards.

Did we mention that the Federal gas tax now collects so little--as cars have gotten more fuel efficient over the years--that there's a roughly $60 billion backlog of repairs just to keep our existing roads in good repair?

State and local taxes on gasoline vary greatly, with adjacent states (New York and New Jersey, for example) often having disparate tax levels and skewing local purchases across the border from one into the other.

Click the graphic below to embiggen it for the full details.

Infographic: 'What's Driving Gas Prices' from One Block Off the Grid

Infographic: 'What's Driving Gas Prices' from One Block Off the Grid

Enlarge Photo



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Comments (9)
  1. Improvements in fuel economy has had little, if any, effect on highway funds available - we haven't had any decline in gas sales in decades. And smaller cars do far less damage to roads. Inflation is the culprit.
    It's also not proper to present the various component costs as percentages - those percentages will vary as (primarily) the cost of crude varies (daily). All (except crude) are essentially fixed costs, and should be presented as such. From the graph , one has no idea of what the cost of retailing is, etc. Sloppy, just sloppy thinking.

  2. I was going to question the fuel efficiency statement as well. The number of gallons of gasoline has been increasing more or less steadily for decades. More recently, it has been leveling out.

    But I think if you exclude ethanol, perhaps gasoline usage has declined in the past couple of years.

    Speaking of percentages, gasoline tax really should be a percentage just to keep pass with inflation. Doing it by the gallon just doesn't seem to make sense.

  3. @John: Indeed, and in fact gasoline consumed in the U.S. peaked in 2006 and has been steady or falling since:

  4. Thanks for the kind feedback. I found this chart too, unfortunately only goes up to 2004, but shows a steadying increase in the transportation sector over 55 years.

  5. Too bad the calculation stops at the cost for the gasoline consumer level. In order to calculate the total cost of a gallon of gasoline to society there is also high negative external costs to be considered. These cost are related to extra defence spending, cost of oil diplomacy, environmental cost, subsidies to oil companies, health cost, cost to the economy of highly fluctuating oil prices and so on, putting the real cost of gasoline way past $10/gallon according to some studies.

    It's interesting to have an idea of these hidden cost to society to counter the complaints of plug-in skeptics about subsidies, because clearly those subsidies are a mere trifle in comparison to the massive hidden subsidization of crude based fuels.

  6. @Chris, are you suggesting that there should be a "green" component to an article on "green car reports?" Nope, only when George is writing.

  7. The article does mention the fuel tax conundrum which is of course the way to internalize those external costs. Not if the revenues are spend on roads rather than on compensating for those external costs though...

  8. In one place it seems to indicate taxes are 11% and in another place taxes are 20%. I don't understand.

    Also interesting to know that there are 18 different blends needed for different states. That is annoying.

  9. Have to question the solar numbers. The claim is a 1KW or 2KW array would be enough for 15,000 miles/year driving.

    Well here in Massachusetts, a 1 KW or 2 KW array would produce 1000 or 2000 KWH respectively. EPA put the LEAF at 34 KWH/100 miles. So a 1 KW or 2 KW array would produce 2900 or 5800 miles/year respectively.

    The numbers are wrong by a factor of 5X or 2.6X respectively.

    I have a 3 KW system on my house that produces 3000KWH/year. That would be 8800 miles/year.

    Solar is great, but let's not over sell it.

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