Gas vs. Petrol. Americans are getting ripped off.*

Apparently, mpgs are becoming the most important thing at the Detroit auto show. But I don’t get why they still seem so low. In Britain, where I live, if you don’t get 40 mpg on your car, there might be something wrong with your car. But in the US, if you get 40 mpg, you likely drive a hybrid. Crazy.

The various Ford Focuses (Foci?), a very popular car in Britain, get 35 mpg minimum and up to 60 mpg with the diesel! Again, this is normal for cars here.

So when you see that gas costs 1 pound per litre, the first thing you do is calculate it to: $6.06 per gallon. Seems really high, but when you consider that 25 mpgs is considered normal in the US and 50 mpgs is considered normal in the UK, that changes to an equivalent of $3.03 per gallon. That’s just $0.50 more per gallon than the average in Texas, where gas is generally pretty cheap. It’s identical to the average in California. But this is only part of the costs.

When you count how much the British pay in petrol tax and compare that to how little Americans pay, Americans are getting ripped off by big oil. In Texas, each gallon of gas has added to its cost $0.384 in taxes, while it is $0.583 in California. So, before taxes a gallon of gas is $2.18 in Texas and $2.44 in California. In the UK, petrol taxes are 53.65 pence per litre. This means that petrol costs about 46.35 pence before taxes.

This means that actual fuel prices in Britain are $2.81 per gallon in US dollars. Remember that we get about twice the distance per gallon and that means that a British person on average spends about $1.40 to get as far as a Texan does for $2.18 or a Californian does for $2.44.

Of course, there’s taxes, which American conservatives don’t appreciate. And they add to the cost to the point that it evens out. But you tell me: would you rather your money go into the pockets of Exxon execs and shareholders or back into the community? It’s a fair question and one that does not have an obvious answer. Consider that the same amount of cash stays in your wallet either way (unless you live in a cheaper gas state like Texas). The only real difference is where the cash that you spend goes.

It seems to me that deficit hawks might consider raising the gas tax. The gas companies are not going hungry in Europe. It seems to me that they would lower their prices according to their value in the marketplace. It might also change the car market itself. If 50 mpgs is not only possible, but something that Ford, an American company, does on a regular basis in the UK, they might actually start introducing real mpg value.

I’m sure I’m missing something, but I can’t understand why 30 mpg is satisfactory in this day and age.

*There is no real difference between gas and petrol. It’s one of those semantic oddities that contribute to the two countries separated by a common language thing going on. The only real difference is cost.


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