Feeling gassed

I spent a good chunk of last week in New Orleans, with the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ annual convention providing the excuse to go there. It was a fascinating trip that got my mind going regarding a number of different things.

One of those things started as a passing notice that gasoline is a whole lot cheaper in New Orleans than it is in Reno; it’s about $1.25 per gallon down there, a good 20 cents cheaper than here. This makes sense, actually—New Orleans being a port city and all—but it still got me thinking about the whole gas-pricing thing.

I had noticed that gas, paradoxically, seems cheaper in Carson City than in Reno. And I read somewhere before that taxes make up a healthy portion of that per-gallon charge. Curiosity got the best of me, and before I knew it, I was doing a bit of research.

First, I started making phone calls and leaving messages with people in an effort to figure out how much we pay, per gallon, in taxes.

Thankfully, those calls were returned. Both Heidi Pettenger, a tax administrator with the Nevada Department of Taxation, and Beer Walker (what a name, eh?) of the local Petroleum Distributors Inc. had the same figures, which I was also thankful for.

Here’s the breakdown: All of us in the great ol’ U.S. of A. pay a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon to start. Then, those of us in Nevada pay 23 cents, which goes to the state. Finally, the counties—as mandated by the state, if that makes sense—have to charge at least 5 cents but can take up to 10 cents per gallon. Most of the state’s most populous counties, Washoe and Carson City included, take the full dime.

Add that up, and that’s 51.4 cents per gallon. I paid $1.459 for gas today (this is below the average cost of $1.53 per gallon in Reno, according to the July 17 figures posted by the California State Automobile Association). That means more than 35 percent of my gas bill went to the government. And if gas prices continue to fall (fingers crossed), that means that percentage going to Uncle Sam and his local minions will continue to rise.

Let’s do some more math: Let’s say I use 10 gallons of gas per week (a conservative estimate, for sure). That means I would pay $267.28 in taxes on gas per year alone.

And for those of you who drive gas-guzzling SUVs or pickups … yikes.

The rates in other states, according to the American Petroleum Institute’s Web site, range from 7.5 cents in Georgia (plus a 4 percent sales tax) to 30.95 cents in New York, putting Nevada’s 23 cents somewhere in the middle—until you add in the five to 10 cents assessed by the counties, as mandated by the state (which a lot of states don’t do). That then puts Nevada toward the top of the list.

That’s a lot of cheese going to the government, in addition to the income taxes and sales taxes and other taxes that we have to pay. Yeah, I know roads are expensive, and I know gas taxes are even higher in other parts of the world—but why isn’t it widespread knowledge how much of a gas tax we pay? Why is it hidden?

And isn’t it interesting that some governments have been hesitant to promote the use of non-fossil fuels in vehicles? Very interesting indeed.

Time to shamelessly brag for a minute: The RN&R picked up an award at the sixth annual Alternative Newsweekly Awards, which were announced last week during the aforementioned convention.

In the under-54,000-circulation category, the RN&R received third place for cover design. The three covers submitted for the category were “Here Comes the Genome” on March 2, 2000, by Jason Malmberg and David Jayne; “The Only Game in Town” on March 9, 2000, by David Jayne; and “Coffin & Keys” on Dec. 14, 2000, by Andrea Diaz.

Congratulations to these three talented designers. Winning a national award like this is something to be proud of.