The Cost of Gasoline

You hear all the time about the rising cost of gas. What’s really behind the price at the pump?

Here’s a look at where the money goes when you buy a gallon of regular gasoline.

Crude oil: Currently, this is the biggest portion of the consumer’s cost of gas. About 52 percent of what you pay for each gallon goes to crude oil suppliers. This is determined largely by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC. The amount of crude oil produced by OPEC determines the price of a barrel of oil.

Taxes: The U.S. government taxes gasoline, as do many state and local governments. On average, these taxes collectively account for 15 percent of the consumer’s cost of gas per gallon. Gas prices vary from state to state primarily because of variances in taxes. In Europe, gas taxes are much higher, and so is the price of gasoline.

Refining: The cost of refining crude oil accounts for about 24 percent of the cost of a gallon of gas. Crude oil, or petroleum, must go through a refining process to turn it into useful products including gasoline. The stages of this process vary with the grade of gasoline or other kinds of products being created.

Distribution and marketing: Crude oil is transported to refineries, then its refined product, gasoline, is shipped from the refineries to distribution points and then to gas stations. Transportation costs are part of the price of gas. Oil companies that make gasoline are competing for consumers’ dollars, so they market their brands to consumers. The companies promote, or advertise, their gasoline by advertising. These advertising and distribution costs together account for about 9 percent of the price of a gallon of gas.

Other factors: The elements listed above all factor into the price of gasoline, but there are other contributing factors. One is seasonal demand. In warmer months, when families tend to travel more, the price of gasoline usually increases, because there is more of a demand for it. Geography can have an impact on the price of gasoline your family pays versus that your cousin’s family pays in another part of the U.S. In general, the further you are from oil refineries, the higher price you’ll pay for gasoline due to higher distribution costs. Competition among gas stations often has an impact on price. Have you ever seen three or four gas stations located near the same intersection? What might the others do if one station lowers its gas prices? Service stations, like other businesses, have to make a profit to survive, so they set their prices based on all the factors we mentioned plus whatever profit the market (and the law) will allow.

What do you think about current gas prices? Tell us below.


  1. Since our patrol leader’s council sometimes chooses campsites which are about one hour drive away from our meeting place, that sometimes spends about five gallons of gasoline per vehicle one way. Sometimes, it might be economical to rent a school bus to travel to our monthly campouts. With the current cost of gasoline, it somtimes costs about $15.00 per vehicle one way to transport our members and our equipment. The minimum wage is now about $7.25 per hour, so when I might drive a car, I think that I’ll only purchase $5.00 of gasoline at any particular gas station due to my minimum wage employment.

  2. Why do you drive a vehicle to a campout? For a change, just collect all of the equipment needed for a campout and have the entire troop that is going camping to carry all of the equipment in their backpacks and hike to the campout at a state park where the campsite has been reserved for your troop? Is your meeting place located more than a two hour walk from a camping area in a local state park?

  3. Driving isn’t necessary to go camping. A three hour hike for a weekend camping program is not that bad. Just carry your sleeping bags, camping tents, cooking items and other program items. If your troop meets at the troop meeting place at about 4:30 p.m. on a Friday night, the troop will be setting up the campsite tents by 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night at the campout site. A three hour backpack hike saves on using gasoline and gives the troop the ability to understand what backpacking on a High Adventure Scouting trip might be like.

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