Here's Why A Tiny Missouri County Has The Lowest Gas Prices In America

Carthage missouri empty foggy hazy highwayWikimedia CommonsA section of former Alternate US 71 near Carthage, Missouri.

Falling gas prices have been a big boost for the economy.

The national average price is sitting at around $US3.21 per gallon.

Prices are below $US3 in just four states, according to GasBuddy.com.

The cheapest state is Missouri at $US2.908 per gallon.

And within Missouri, according to CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, the cheapest place is Jasper County (home of Joplin).

Why do they have it so good?

Gas prices are determined by three main factors: the price of oil, the cost of transporting the fuel, and taxes.

OIL

The cost of West Texas Intermediate crude, the oil contract that trades in the U.S., has mostly been down all year, and now stands at about $US94, thanks to the Great American Shale Boom.

But because of a lack of infrastructure, only refineries closest to the country’s oil production center — basically the mid-section of the country — have access to it. In fact, the lack of infrastructure has compounded a supply glut and driven WTI prices down further. That in turn produced an excess of gasoline stocks, which has helped keep mid-continent prices low.

Oil refineries capture much of the cost savings from this discounted crude. But some savings do get passed on to consumers, AAA’s Michael Green told us in an email.

TRANSPORT

Your next advantage comes based on your proximity to refineries, and the population density surrounding them. One of the country’s largest concentrations of refineries happens to be within a few miles of Jasper County, and the region is relatively sparse, unlike areas surrounding mid-Atlantic refineries.

Jasper County also enjoys what is almost it’s own personal gasoline pipeline offshoot, which further reduces transportation costs:

TAXES

The final and perhaps most relevant price determinant is taxes. At $US0.173/gallon, Missouri has the 5th-lowest gas tax in the country.

For your information, Alaska has the lowest tax, followed by Wyoming, according to the Tax Foundation.

New Jersey actually has the third-lowest gas tax, and the state’s prices can often be as low as or lower than Missouri’s (which never happens to N.J. neighbour Pennsylvania):

Compare that with the whopping $US0.506/gallon tax in New York.

So, if you’re desperate for cheap gas and if you think that premium for living in New York is overrated, then head to Jasper Co, Missouri.

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