# Gauging the value of a gallon of gas

Those Canadians — they’re a sneaky bunch.

Consider: They’ll sell you a pint of beer and a 12-ounce steak, but when you go to fill your gas tank, they’ll charge you, not by the gallon, but by some arcane calculation called “cents per liter.” They say it’s based on the metric system, but I’m beginning to think it’s actually part of a nefarious plot to get unwitting Americans to fork over more money without realizing it.

I fell for it just last week. I was on the outskirts of Calgary when I saw the Petro-Canada sign touting regular for \$1.26, which, at first glance, sounded like a steal compared to the \$3.85 or so I’d been paying back home. I knew it wasn’t, but it wasn’t until I actually did the math — 1 U.S. gallon = 3.785 liters, \$1.26 x 3.785 — that I realized, whoa, I’m paying \$4.77 a gallon, almost a dollar more than usual. Like I said, pretty sneaky, eh?

I’m kidding, of course, and there’s no reason to blame Canada for my lagging math skills. Better instead to consider the incident a learning experience about how much we really pay for our precious petroleum distillates.

Taxes take their toll
Flying into Calgary, there’s no escaping the fact that the city is command central for Alberta’s oil industry. The 53-story Petro-Canada Centre, the twin Husky Oil buildings, the gaping hole in the ground that will house the 58-story headquarters of EnCana — these and other skyscrapers stand as testament to the gusher of money being produced during the province’s ongoing oil boom.

But on the road to Banff a few days before the Labor Day weekend, that bonanza doesn’t translate into any bargains at the gas station. The reasons are many and complex, but chief among them is the role of taxes. In Canada, taxes currently add an average of 34 cents per liter (\$1.30 per gallon!) to the cost of regular gas (25 cents or \$.95 per gallon in Alberta), compared to an average of 50 cents per gallon across the U.S. Over the course of a year, the difference can amount to several hundred dollars in added expense.

Fortunately for us, we were only traveling for a week and we were driving a gas-sipper of a rental car, a Toyota Yaris that got 37 miles per gallon. If we’d filled the 11.1-gallon tank, it would’ve cost us \$52.95 — unpleasant, to be sure, but only a ten-spot more than we’d have paid back home. Putting my meager math skills to the test again, I figured we could go 400 miles or so before another fill-up — not a bad deal for the money.