How Much of a Fifty-Dollar Tank of Gas Goes to Transportation Programs?

Little of what you pay for gas goes to addressing transportation issues.

Every year Americans spend hundreds of billions of dollars at the gas pump, but where does this money end up? The Union of Concerned Scientists look at the data and concluded that “instead of coming back into local communities or our country as a whole, most of the money driv­ers spent at the pump went to one place: oil companies.”

But isn’t that true of most products? Am I missing something? It’s not clear from the fine print, but it appears the money going to oil companies is being characterized or implied as pure profit, which of course isn’t true. Obviously much of it goes into operations. And I bet that communities with refineries and other business operations contribute receive oil company charitable contributions, which isn’t really addressed in the UCS infographic.

UCS does provide a lot of good information about the benefits of driving more fuel efficient vehicles and reducing dependance on oil.
To help make its case UCS created the infographic below.  It’s part of the UCS’ Half the Oil plan:”Reducing our oil use is a smart strategy for our pocketbooks, our climate, and our health. Putting efficient technologies and innovative solutions to work, we can cut our projected oil use in half—saving more than 11 million barrels of oil every day by 2035.”

What caught my eye in the infographic is how little goes to transportation programs – an estimated $7 out of a $50 tank of gas,  if I’m interpreting the graphic correctly. And while the other numbers may go up over time (e.g., refining, distribution and marketing), that $7 may be as high as it’s ever going to be. And at the same time, higher MPG vehicles means fewer tanks of gas, equaling declining revenue.

Following the graphic is the fine print explanation of the UCS assumptions.

Here’s the fine print for the infographic from UCS:

“Distributions based on spending $50 on gasoline at a typical gas station. Totals for crude oil, taxes, refining, and distribution/marketing based on five-year average (2007–2012). Gas station total represents profit after taxes and other expenses related to motor fuels sales (which are included in the distribution/marketing total).”