Fact check: Gas is over $7 per gallon in some of Europe, just over $1 in Kuwait

·5 min read

The claim: Gasoline is $2.10 in Russia, $0.78 in Kuwait and $0.98 in Saudi Arabia

Gas prices leveled off this month after weeks of increasing, but the national average for unleaded is still $1.20 higher than a year ago, data from the fuel price aggregator GasBuddy shows.

As USA TODAY has reported, this spike is due in large part to production cuts that followed a drop in demand during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Production has been slow to ramp back up to meet the post-lockdown demand.

One social media post shared more than 40,000 times in two weeks claims that U.S. prices have soared past those in some other nations, which it blames on President Joe Biden's policies.

“Gasoline in Russia $2.10, Kuwait 78 cents, Saudia Arabia 98 cents,” reads the Nov. 17 Facebook post. “Nobody shutting pipelines down there.”

The post ends with the acronym directing an expletive at Biden

But this post is misleading. The gas prices it lists are from more than a decade ago.

While U.S. gas prices are still higher than those of Russia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, that has far more to do with different government subsidies and taxes among the three nations than with pipeline infrastructure, experts say.

Pipelines have little do with the pricing variance, said Greg Upton, associate research professor at the Louisiana State University Center for Energy Studies. President Joe Biden rejected a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline in June that ultimately shut down the project, but Upton said oil prices in the U.S. didn't increase after Biden's announcement or when the project officially ended – just as they didn't react significantly to his election.

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USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the post for comment.

Gasoline prices top $5 per gallon Nov. 15 in Los Angeles.
Gasoline prices top $5 per gallon Nov. 15 in Los Angeles.

Gas prices in post are long outdated, inaccurate

The post claims that drivers in both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait currently pay less than a third of what Americans pay at the pump and that drivers in Russia pay just $2.10 per gallon.

Those numbers don't match current prices in any of the countries. They appear to date to 2005, since they correspond to figures in a CNN Money article from March 2005.

As of Nov. 29, octane-95 gasoline prices averaged $2.58 per gallon in Russia, $2.35 per gallon in Saudi Arabia and $1.31 per gallon in Kuwait, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com. The U.S. averaged $3.74 per gallon on the same date.

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In this file photo taken in 2005 shows an oil refinery on Galveston Bay in Texas City, Texas. President Joe Biden announced Tuesday he has ordered the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the US strategic reserves in a coordinated attempt with other countries to tamp down soaring fuel prices.
In this file photo taken in 2005 shows an oil refinery on Galveston Bay in Texas City, Texas. President Joe Biden announced Tuesday he has ordered the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the US strategic reserves in a coordinated attempt with other countries to tamp down soaring fuel prices.

National taxes and subsidies account for most international differences in gas prices

It’s true that gasoline is more expensive in the U.S. than in countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia, both currently and historically. But government taxes and subsidies are the main driver of national differences in gasoline prices, experts said.

Crude oil, the price of which is strongly correlated to the price of gasoline, is sold and purchased in a global market, so prices are generally consistent in different parts of the world, said Mark Finley, an energy and global oil fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute.

"Once you adjust for wholesale prices, (prices) are pretty similar in most parts of the world," Finley said. "What drives the big differences are taxes and subsidies."

Countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where government-owned companies produce crude oil, subsidize gasoline prices heavily to benefit their citizens. Russia puts more money into oil subsidies than any other nation except China, spending an average of $80 billion on subsidies each year from 2017 to 2019, according to Nature magazine.

The U.S., on the other hand, imposes taxes on gasoline. American consumers pay an average of around $0.50 in taxes per gallon of gasoline. Federal taxes account for 18.4 cents per gallon, according to the Department of Energy. State taxes account for around 30 cents of this average, but that amount varies widely from state to state.

Taxes are even higher in European countries. The Netherlands has higher gasoline taxes than any other European nation at $3.39 per gallon, with Italy in second place at $3.09 per gallon, the Tax Foundation reported in 2020.

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Currently, gasoline is over $7 per gallon in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Ireland, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com.

Transport distance is another factor that can cause geographical price disparities, said Finley. Remote locations like Hawaii tend to have higher gas costs to offset added transport costs.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that gasoline is $2.10 in Russia, $0.78 in Kuwait and $0.98 in Saudi Arabia. These numbers reflect the cost of gas per gallon in March 2005, not currently. As of Nov. 29, the average price per gallon of gas was $2.58 per gallon in Russia, $1.31 in Kuwait, and $2.35 per gallon in Saudi Arabia, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim cites gas prices from 2005

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