It should come as no surprise that a state’s geographic location has a lot to do with how much gasoline costs there. As Slate.com points out, right now the cheapest gas in the country can be found in Missouri. While the national average hovers over $4, Missourians are paying a scant $3.82 per gallon (jeez, they’re practically giving it away).
There are a number of reasons for this. Missouri doesn’t produce any oil itself, but it is close to several oil-producing areas, like Texas, Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast. Several major pipelines run through Missouri, and both the Mississippi and Missouri rivers see frequent traffic of oil barges.
For the same reasons, California normally gets the nation’s highest gas prices. Cut off from oil supplies east of the Rockies, California also has tougher emissions standards that require a more expensive method for blending gasoline. Urban areas generally must sell reformulated gas to comply with air pollution regulations.
There’s been a lot of talk about the federal gas tax from presidential candidates, but each state also has a gas tax. Missouri’s tax is low, but New Jersey has the lowest state tax in the country at a measly 14.5 cents per gallon. This allows it to stay well ahead of its neighbor, New York, where the average cost is roughly $4.24 a gallon — 28 cents higher than Jersey.
Gas sold at big-box retailers or stations attached to convenience stores also tends to cost less because these businesses can afford to sell gas closer to wholesale costs because they have a large source of secondary income. This trend is prevalent in Missouri, as well as Kansas, Pennsylvania, and parts of the upper Great Lakes, which lowers the average price for a state.
Finally, Missouri mandates that all gas have a 10 percent ethanol blend, which seems to save consumers about 10 cents per gallon. However, in light of the food crisis, lawmakers have begun to consider retracting that law, which might ship the title for the nation’s cheapest gas elsewhere.