Daylight Saving Time + gas taxes = boon for tax collectors,
but some money-saving options for added daylight drivers
Are you as groggy as I am today? Twice a year I feel out of sorts as most of us shift our clocks ahead or back.
Today marks the beginning of our annual transition to Daylight Saving Time, or DST; and sorry, Bart, there is no "s" appended to Daylight, according to horologists and the Associated Press stylebook. Since 2007, provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 have mandated an extra hour of DST.
The disruption of our circadian rhythms has been going on for nearly a century. The debate as to whether it's worth it has been going on as long.
The benefits of the added rays, say DST proponents recounted in David Prerau's book Seize the Daylight, include reducing automobile accidents, providing more daylight for outdoor activities, cutting crime and, the biggie, saving energy.
U.S. Department of Transportation studies done in the 1970s found that the country's overall electricity usage was trimmed by about one percent each day of DST.
But are those energy saving findings still valid?
No, according to other researchers.
Michael Downing, a Tufts University professor and author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, says fiddling with our clocks doesn't really save energy.
"Daylight saving is still a boon to purveyors of barbecue grills, sports and recreation equipment and the petroleum industry, as gasoline consumption increases every time we increase the length of the daylight saving period," Downing told Mother Nature Network.
"Give Americans an extra hour of after-dinner daylight," said Downing, "and they will go to the ballpark or the mall, but they won't walk there."
That's right, we automobile loving Americans will get in our cars to take advantage of our added hour.
So rather than saving energy, says Downing, DST is "a convenient and cynical substitute for a real energy conservation policy."
There's data to back him up. A report by the California Energy Commission's Demand Analysis Office concluded that, "The extension of daylight saving time to March 2007 had little or no effect on energy consumption in California."
More gas pumped, more gas taxes: While conservationists aren't thrilled with those findings, tax collectors are.
Uncle Sam, who collects a federal excise tax of 18.4 cents on each gallon we put into our tanks, and the 50 state tax collectors (plus D.C.) who add their own fuel taxes and fees to the pump price say thanks for the additional daylight driving.
The American Petroleum Institute keeps track of gasoline taxes, publishing quarterly reports. Its latest collection of data shows in the map below the general state gasoline taxes across the United States in January.
Click on image to go to American Petroleum Institute's interactive map.
Added state fees, added consumer costs: In addition to excise taxes per gallon, states typically collect other fuel related fees.
In fact, it's those ancillary state taxes and fees that drive up the cost of gas. They include, among other things, state and local sales taxes, environmentally-safe disposal fees, storage tank charges and inspection fees.
API's collection of January pump price amounts shows that these added fees on average account for 50 percent of the average overall state gas tax.
When you add in the federal excise tax, on average each gallon of gas we pump is taxed at 49.72 cents. And that nearly half dollar charge is this week's By the Numbers figure.
And it's the same for diesel.
API's January data shows the average state excise tax on diesel is 18.98 cents per gallon. Add to that 12.03 cents in other state taxes and fees, along with the federal excise tax on diesel of 24.4 cents per gallon, and you get the an average overall tax cost of diesel of 55.41 cents per gallon.
Gas saving tools: While there's not much we can do about the federal and state fuel taxes aside from pestering our elected officials, today's Daily Tax Tip does offer you a way to find cheaper gas.
To find the lowest pump price on the go, look into Gas Buddy, Fuel Finder and Cheap Gas! mobile apps.
Here's to happy and less costly motoring, regardless of the taxes and whatever time of day you're on the road.
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