WASHINGTON – With summer travel in full gear and motorists more conscious of the price of gasoline than ever before, few Americans realize that up to 60 cents of the cost per gallon is the result of local, state and federal taxes.

In fact, despite allegations of price-gouging, some retailers say they are actually losing money on every gallon they pump.

State, local and federal taxes make up about 20 percent of the cost paid at the pump, according to Conoco Phillips, an international, integrated energy company.

So, while many tend to assume major gas companies are hugely profiting when gas prices peak, this may not be the case. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, when the average price of regular unleaded gas peaked at $3 per gallon in 2006, most major companies were profiting only about 10 cents per gallon on refining and marketing options, while the federal tax alone is as much as 18.4 cents per gallon.

As of March, the national average gasoline tax is 45.8 cents. New York has the highest gas tax at 60.8 cents at the pump, with Hawaii just behind costing 60.2 cents per gallon, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

Gas taxes include federal, averaging 18.4 cents per gallon; state, averaging 18.2 cents per gallon; and additional taxes costing an average of 9.15 cents per gallon. The additional taxes include applicable sales taxes, gross receipts taxes, oil inspection fees, underground storage tank fees and other environmental fees.

New York assemblymen presented a proposal to the state legislature advocating a gas tax cut. However, concerns have been raised that a hole will open in the state’s budget that cannot be filled. Republican advocates argue that increased tourism caused by the ability to travel more cheaply because of lower gas prices will fill the $200-$300 million dollar gap.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry supported a proposal to lower the gas tax by 20 cents over the summer. The proposal passed in the state House of Representatives, but was pushed aside in the Texas Senate.

Another effort to decrease the amount paid is the so-called “tax holiday” at the pump. Several states have considered proposals for “tax holidays” that would be a period of time with no gas tax. A bill was presented to Congress last week that would suspend gas tax during price spikes above $3 per gallon. Rolling back tax breaks for major oil companies would make up for any lost revenue.

In Connecticut as well, a gas tax relief proposal was offered by the Republican minority but quickly swept under the rug by the Democrat majority, despite its support from Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

Taxes on gasoline vary from state to state. In Alaska, the gas tax is only 26.4 cents, the lowest gas tax in the nation. New York’s gas tax is more than twice as much. The gas tax isn’t the only element that increases prices at the pump. But it remains one of the most significant factors in high-priced gasoline.

California, for example, has extensive environmental restrictions that require the state to use an expensive blend of gasoline. At the same time, the cost in some Midwestern states is far higher because delivery costs are higher.


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