A lot of factors go into determining the price of gasoline, so it’s worthwhile every now and again to review them.
A good piece in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal does just that, asking simply why gas costs what it does. The author – an analyst for a taxpayer watchdog group – gives a quick rundown of the basics, like crude oil costs, which can account for roughly three-quarters of the price consumers pay at the pump. Then there are expenses for refining, distribution and marketing.
But he also reveals one slice of the gas price pie routinely overlooked by those who criticize energy companies or gas station owners for high prices. He writes, “The truth is that governments rake in a larger profit at the pump than anyone,” including companies like ExxonMobil.
A range of government authorities share in the tax revenue from the gasoline consumers buy. To start, there’s the federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon. A variety of state and local sales and excise taxes help boost the price as well. All told, American motorists pay an average of nearly 50 cents per gallon in taxes every time they fill up.
Looking at it this way, the author concludes that “government makes far more from gas sales than all of the oil companies put together.” ExxonMobil, for instance, earned just 8 cents on each gallon of gasoline and refined products sold in the U.S. during the first two quarters of 2012.
All things to keep in mind the next time you hear criticism of oil companies for the cost of filling up.