Unexpectedly Intriguing!
October 23, 2012

Six months ago, we used Google's Fusion Tables to create interactive heat maps to visualize the actual price of a gallon of gasoline across the United States. We're updating that exercise today:

Average Price of a Gallon of Gasoline at the Pump

Our first chart visualizes the average price that consumers are paying per gallon of gasoline at the pump when they fill up their vehicle's gas tanks, as of when we sampled it on 21 October 2012 as recorded by GasBuddy:

Average Combined Federal, State and Local Gasoline Taxes

Of course, the price people pay at the pump is jacked up by the combined total of federal, state and local gasoline excise taxes that are imposed by federal state and local governments. Our next chart shows how much gasoline prices are increased by these taxes on average by state, using data recorded by the American Petroleum Institute:

By contrast, oil companies make about 7 cents in profit for each gallon of gasoline they sell. The U.S. federal government by itself collects 18.4 cents for each gallon of gasoline sold in the United States - about two and a half times the take of what the people who actually work to produce and distribute gasoline across the nation earn.

Actual Price of a Gallon of Gasoline by State

By subtracting out these combined taxes, we can find the actual price of a gallon of gasoline in each state:

Looking at the map, gasoline prices have fallen the most per gallon in Illinois (-$0.58), Michigan (-$0.49), Indiana (-$0.46), Ohio (-$0.42), Wisconsin (-$0.42) and Missouri (-$0.41) since March 2012. Meanwhile, 12 states saw price drops between $0.20 and $0.31 per gallon, another 9 states saw price drops between $0.11 and $0.19 per gallon, 10 states saw single digit price per gallon drops and the actual price of gasoline is now higher than it was in March 2012 in 13 states.

The Associated Press notes that much of that price drop in the upper midwest is a very recent development:

The average price at the pump fell 22 cents in Ohio and 16 cents in Wisconsin in the past week. Those are two key battleground states in the presidential election, with 18 and 10 electoral votes, respectively.

Here's the electoral vote count for the states that saw the biggest gasoline price drops:

  • Illinois (21 votes)
  • Michigan (17 votes)
  • Indiana (11 votes)
  • Ohio (20 votes)
  • Wisconsin (10 votes)
  • Missouri (10 votes)

In 2008, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Missouri were all considered to be battleground states in the presidential election. Three of these states, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin are considered to be toss ups for the 2012 election.

Funny how the biggest gasoline price drops by state in 2012 match up so well with that list....

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