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Why you pay what you do: Statewide and environmental inspection taxes, plus distance from ports influence fuel prices.

By Timothy J. Gibbons
Published by Florida Times-Union on November 29, 2005.

While the Senate grilled oil executives about September's record high gasoline prices on Wednesday, Sharon Perez was quietly rejoicing about the drop in prices.

With the Citgo on Beach Boulevard where she's assistant manager selling a gallon of gas for $2.39, Perez was seeing more customers than in the past few weeks -- and more of those customers were coming into the store, buying snacks and drinks in addition to just gasoline.

"If you keep the prices down," she said, "that brings people in. When we started lowering the prices, the pumps filled up."

That downward trend -- and at least slightly happier customers -- is expected to continue.

Since peaking at $3.07 on Sept. 5, gas has steadily inched downward. In Jacksonville on Tuesday, a gallon of gas was selling for an average $2.57, down more then a penny from the day before and 45 cents from a month ago, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

And that was the average: Drivers who shopped around could find fuel at $2.29 per gallon for regular gas, according to GasBuddy Organization Inc., a company that runs a collection of Web sites that track gas prices.

Such variation -- both within the city and across the state and nation -- somewhat obscures the drop in prices, especially when looking at state and national averages.

In Florida, a large part of the difference is attributable to two factors: local taxes and how much it costs to get the gas to the station.

Every driver in Florida pays 14.3 cents per gallon in state tax (a tax that went up 2 cents on Jan. 1) and 2.2 cents to pay for environmental inspections, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Counties then levy their own taxes, ranging from 9.9 cents to 17.8 cents per gallon.

Duval County charges 11.8 cents per gallon, as do about 20 other counties. The only county charging less is Franklin County, which charges 9.9 cents per gallon.

Florida prices are also affected by how close a community is to a port handling petroleum products. Much of the gasoline used in Florida comes into the southern part of the state: The biggest petroleum importing port in the state, Port Everglades, brought in 4.4 million metric tons of non-crude oil products in the 12 months ending in April, with the ports of Miami and Palm Beach adding another 797,000 metric tons.

Private port facilities in Jacksonville brought in 2.4 million metric tons, while the ports of Tampa and Port Canaveral together imported 1.7 metric tons.



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This is a showcase of the work done by Timothy J. Gibbons during a journalism career now stretching back more than a decade.

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