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Gas millage

July 29, 2013 - Rob Weaver
Yes, the headline is correct. I'm not writing about gasoline mileage. Today's blog is about gas millage.

A mill, as property taxpayers know, is one-one thousandth (1/1,000th) of a dollar. We have no coin for it, but pump prices as well as property tax issues make use of that fraction. Which brings up the letter a reader wrote about a week ago, which notes gas prices often end in 9/10ths of a cent per gallon. It reads, in part:

“The gas companies are ripping us off a 10th of a cent for every gallon we pay for. In other words, for every 10 gallons of gas we pay for, the gas company makes 1 cent. For what? That's stealing! Every 100 gallons, that's 10 cents. Look how many dollars the gas company makes and we get nothing in return. Some say it is a 10th of a cent per gallon, but over time, that adds up to dollars.”

I'm not certain why gas prices often end in a fraction of a cent, but more than one website has postulated the practice is rooted in an ancient, long-ago time when:

1) A penny was a lot of money.

B) Gas was priced in single digits.

Thus, if a station were to raise the price of gas a full cent, it would be quite a big jump. For example, hiking the price from 8 cents to 9 cents would be a 12.5-percent increase. So, prices were listed to the 10th of a cent.

In many places, it's still in use, although perhaps to keep prices from jumping to the next highest number -- the same reason prices or many commodities have prices ending in 99 cents.

But can fuel pumps handle pricing to the 10th of a penny? Apparently, they can. Well, sort of.

Last weekend, when I topped off the tank in my wife's car, the pump stopped at 9.99 gallons. The price per gallon was $3.26, and the meter on the tank read $32.60. I nursed another hundredth of a gallon out of the pump, and the volume digits read 10.00 gallons. But the price didn't change.

So, I did pay $3.26 per gallon, assuming the pump was metering correctly, as the auditor's office sticker attests.

This also made it easier to mentally calculate the fuel mileage. I was pleased to note her nearly 8-year-old car, which recently topped 105,000 miles, achieved 31.9 miles per gallon.

The letter writer also raised another concern about gas prices:

“In 18 days, gas went up and down 37 cents a gallon. The gas was bought from the same brand gas station. This is how the American people are being ripped off.”

I wish someone would explain how gasoline prices, in a matter of days, could change by 11 percent -- give or take a 10th of a cent.


Article Comments



Aug-04-13 1:33 AM

This should be in all newspapers throughout US.


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