When we look at how much the cost of a gallon of gas varies from state to state, the first cause that comes to mind is the different tax rate for gas from state to state. But while that explains part of the cost variance, it does not account for all of it. At Econbrowser , James Hamilton breaks down the key factors in state gas prices in a series of helpful maps. First, there is this map from GasBuddy.com that shows how different gas prices can be from state to state, or even county to county: So while taxes are a major factor, Hamilton cites a number of other key factors, like state requirements for the quality of fuel, and the cost of crude oil at regional refineries: For example, sweet crude in Louisiana is currently fetching $125 a barrel, or $27 more than its counterpart in Wyoming. If the refined product market in Wyoming were completely separate from that in the rest of the country, we might then expect gasoline in Wyoming to be 68 cents/gallon cheaper than on the coasts as a result of differences in the cost of crude alone. But the refined markets are not completely separated, and no producer would want to sell gasoline in Wyoming if you had an easy way to get it to somebody willing to pay 68 more cents per gallon for it. Although America's pipeline system for transporting crude oil is not up to the task of moving all the crude available in Wyoming to refineries in Louisiana, the infrastructure for transporting refined products is somewhat better. The result is that Americans in the middle of the country pay more and those on the coasts pay less than they would if the product markets were completely isolated geographically. The equilibrium price differential is the one that equalizes the return from selling in different markets after taking into account transportation costs. Read Why do gasoline prices differ across U.S. states? here .
Filed under: taxes, James Hamilton, Econbrowser, oil prices, gas prices, consumer behavior, consumer prices, crude oil, impact of gas prices, gasbuddy, refineries