Answer to Map #51

Click here for a full-size version of this week’s map.

Back to this week’s maps and hints.

Answer: This week’s map was a choropleth in which each country was shaded in accordance with the cost of gas.

The world’s cheapest gas, not surprisingly, is found in countries with significant oil industries. For example, you can get a gallon of gas for about $0.90 in Qatar. This map was made using data from 2015, which means it’s somewhat out of date. The economies of oil-rich countries in the Persian Gulf have been slumping because of declining oil prices around the world, which means that they can no longer sell gas to their own citizens at dirt cheap prices. Saudi Arabia raised its retail prices 50% in 2016 and has discussed raising the prices further in 2017. Kuwait raised its prices a whopping 83% in 2016. But, all things considered, these countries still have cheap gas!

At the other end of the spectrum is Norway, the country with the most expensive gas. A gallon in Norway will set you back about $7.49. That high price certainly isn’t due to a lack of supply—Norway is a major oil producer. The wealth that Norway has accumulated, in large part due to its oil exports, has paradoxically allowed it to adopt bold environmental policies at home. The Norwegian government not only levies an exorbitant gas tax; it also gives significant tax breaks to residents who purchase electric cars. Friday’s hint mentioned that, until two years ago, Norway was the country with the second most sales of Tesla cars after the U.S.

Another country with very high gas prices is Turkey. The situation in Turkey is somewhat different from that in Norway. Turkey has a very high “special consumption tax,” which applies to gas as well as vehicles, tobacco, and luxury goods. The government has raised that tax several times in recent years in an attempt to make up a budget deficit. Whereas Norway has levied its high gas tax largely in an attempt to incentivize people to reduce traffic and help the environment, Turkey has levied its gas tax in the hope of raising money for the government.

In general, gas prices are lower in the U.S. than in other Western countries. But they aren’t uniform within the U.S., either. You’ll pay the least in South Carolina ($2.07/gallon), a state with a conservative government that this year only managed to raise its gas tax for the first time in a full 30 years by overriding the governor’s veto. The state where you’ll pay the most is Hawaii ($3.03/gallon). In Hawaii, the issue is less about taxation and more about the fact that gas, like most consumer goods, has to be imported by ship across the Pacific Ocean. That fact is a good reminder that there are many complex reasons why gas prices differ from place to place.

Next map: Click here to try out our newest map question.