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How much per gallon?

A little perspective on $2/gallon gasoline.

If you think gasoline is expensive, be glad your SUV doesn’t run on double half-caf mocha lattes.

At $32 per gallon, the popular Starbucks brew can make today’s prices at the pump look like a real bargain.

Even so, a lot of drivers who complain about gasoline prices in excess of $2 per gallon seem to have no problem plunking down $3 or more for a designer cup of coffee.


Consider this. John Frieda’s brilliant brunette color-boosting shampoo retails for $6.19 per tube at Randall’s. That translates to a whopping $94 for a gallon. But even cheap-o bottles of Suave that sell for 89 cents on sale ring up to $8.14 for a gallon. That’s four times the average price for regular unleaded in Houston.

Art Smith, an energy consult with John S. Herold, says when broken down, the overall price-per-mile ratio in this country still comes out to a mere 10 cents.

“Would you pay a dime to not have to push your car down the highway for a mile?” Smith asks. “I would.”

When you put it that way, it sure doesn’t sound so bad. The accompanying sidebar and chart to the story are illuminating as well. Check it out.

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  1. Tx bubba says:

    And do we use nearly as much Off bug spray or mustard as we use gasoline? Does the price of any other product affect so many other products and industries?


    So, other than availability in gallons, what qualities do these products share with gas that make them legitimate comparisons for perspactive?


    Has any other base consumer product seen a 20% increase in just a few short months?

    No. (perhaps beef but I don’t have the numbers at hand.)

  2. Stace says:

    On the other hand, a minimum wage worker has to work 5 hours out of an eight hour day to pay for a full tank of gas on a pretty economical Ford Focus.

  3. tony g says:

    1) if i were putting shampoo in my gas tank, then i’d be complaining about the cost of shampoo (and Suave is my brand).

    2) the price of shampoo is not eating into my measley paycheck the way gas does. perhaps that’s because a palmful of shampoo lasts me a couple of days. a palmful of gasoline won’t turn my little 6-cylinder over.

    3) if i could just wash my hair, and that would absolve me of paying for gas, well then i might buy shampoo by the gallon, but then there would be an OSEC and the price would be $136/gallon.

    3) although the intent is to give some appreciation (and i abundantly abhor our greedy culture, so i don’t misappreciate the appreciation), i don’t see anyone comparing it to the price of a gallon of water (which is really what keeps my engine (me) going), or a gallon of raw sewage that eventually may help grow our food, or a gallon of air (which they’ll harvest soon). silly, isn’t it?

    4) in a way i see this like i see comparing airplane deaths to deaths from whatever (bee stings, choking on paperclips, bb-guns to the temple, etc.). if you combine the risks you have a net increase. flying on planes doesn’t necessarily keep you from treading in bee country. the gasoline/shampoo comparison is not about replacing one with the other — it’s additive — so no matter the cost of the ridiculous comparisons, you still have to deal with the price of gas (which has doubled in the past two years — what other commodity has done that?).

    sorry, i just think it’s a silly exercise. the real complaint about gasoline prices is that it is balanced by nothing that makes those of us in the poorer quarter any better able to just survive. and we’re more likely (as i am) to depend on transportation to make a living, however measley.

    there’s probably no real logic to what i said, but it still pisses me off. i’m in a recession.


  4. and one other thing while i’m at it.

    i assumed this was just a posting of the email i’ve received (and deleted in anger) so many times in the past few months as one of those chain-pass-it-on-you-won’t-believe-what-happens-if-you-forward-it-to-ten-people things. that’s why i was so ready with my defensive posture.

    so i click your link and lo and behold, despite the oh-so-familiar setup and language, it is a copyrighted, dated story with an author and publisher. A story well postdating all those emails i’ve gotten.

    And then there’s this:

    What gives? In the United States, people spend so much time telling themselves they deserve to be pampered, they sometimes forget the basics, says Michael Solomon, a professor of consumer behavior at Auburn University.

    and this:

    Art Smith, an energy consult with John S. Herold, says when broken down, the overall price-per-mile ratio in this country still comes out to a mere 10 cents.

    Since, Ms./Mr. Lynn Cook cites no publications for these quotes are we to believe he/she called Michael Solomon at Auburn University and Art Smith and interviewed them for these one-liners in an eight-paragraph sidebar?

    Something smells here.

    Perhaps someone still has a copy of one of those emails laying around somewhere.

  5. William Hughes says:

    I always knew Starbucks was overpriced and overrated. Then again, even street vendor coffee in NYC costs $10 a gallon. 🙂

  6. Matt says:

    Sadly mediocre reporting. Sure, it’s a fluff piece, but comparing the price of a gallon of gasoline to the price of other products not normally consumed in gallon quantities is ridiculous.

    How about antimatter? It’s only $62.5 trillion per gram! High-quality carbon nanotubes? Actual Web price: $2,000 per gram. What does that tell us about gasoline? Not much.

    The issue is the real cost of driving one’s car. The chart showing relative prices over time – that’s useful, puts things in perspective, and could have been the main thrust of a reasonable article. Comparison to gas prices in other countries (typically 2-3x more) would have helped as well, and would have been a good way to show the impact of different average fuel economy in different countries.

  7. Mathwiz says:

    It’s a meaningless comparison, for all the reasons other commenters have noted, but it’s still interesting that not so very long ago gasoline was the second cheapest liquid you could buy in the U.S., gallon for gallon. (The cheapest, of course, was tap water.)

    Nowadays you can probably buy some off-brands of soda pop for less, but gas is still pretty cheap.

    A more meaningful comparison (one that Jon Stewart has done, in his own inimitable way) would be against the price of gasoline in other countries. Guess how many have cheaper gas?

  8. tony g says:

    sorry about the rant, i was tired and grumpy.

    which i continued at work today, and a cohort said something like:

    “if our cars ran on shampoo, exxon would have massive refineries for it and the price wouldn’t be $8/gallon.”

  9. wishIwuz2 says:

    And a gallon of Nyquil runs up near $200

    Shampoo, over-counter meds, Starbucks goodies, etc. also must pass rigorous testing & gov’t standards. Massive refineries for personal consumables would help cut costs some, but might not even be feasible given the required safety standards.

  10. RepubAnon says:

    As noted by the commenters above: try measuring by a meaningful unit, like dollars per day – as well as on the joys of price elastic vs. price inelastic goods.

    Coffee is “price elastic” – the more it costs the less I drink. Gasoline to get to and from work is “price inelastic.” When the price of gasoline goes up, I can either:
    * suck it up and pay;
    * lose my job; or,
    * enjoy a three to five hour commute (each way) on mass transit.

    It would be nice if I had an alternative, which would make gasoline a price elastic good for me. It would also be nice to win the lottery. Moving closer to work means unaffordable rents. Telecommuting isn’t available.

    Bottom line: comparing gas prices to Starbucks prices is like comparing the price of champagne to the price per gallon of insulin to a diabetic. Most champagne drinkers cut back on consumption when the price rises – diabetics can’t cut back on insulin usage just because the p[rice goes up.

  11. Greg says:

    Also, although i hate starbucks, lets remember that if you drink as much starbucks as you use gas, you have a bigger issue than money.