I recall seeing just last week a full-page ad in the paper in which the oil companies, presenting a united front, sought to distance themselves from the price-setting gas station operators. The idea was "Hey, these gas prices aren't our fault. Blame the gas station attendants for hiking up their rates!" This of course conveniently fails to mention that the seemingly "independent" retail stations must buy their gas at the price they are charged by their suppliers.
A lead story in Sunday's Business section of the Washington Post further rejects the idea that gas station owners are the profiteers they've been made out to be. See the accompanying graphic for an explanation of how the price paid by consumers at the pump is distributed throughout the entire gasoline production system.
While consumers are paying about $1.20 more per gallon since September '04, gas distributors and retailers have seen their share rise only marginally (5%), from $0.17 to $0.178. So where's all the profit going to? Well, where else but...
- The oil companies. A year ago, they were collecting about $1 of each gallon sold. That number is up 46%, to about $1.47.
- The refineries. Here is the big winner--last year, they took $0.28 of every gallon. Their piece of the pie has grown substantially larger, now at about $0.99 per gallon, a 255% increase!