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We work 10 times longer for one liter of fuel than Americans

Global fuel prices are the lowest they have been for a few years. The Americans from some states pay less than 1.5 PLN per liter of fuel. On the contrary, one liter of unleaded fuel in Poland still costs approximately 4 zloty, despite the fact that this type of fuel costs only 0.75 PLN per liter on the European ARA market. A comment from Marcin Lipka, Cinkciarz.pl analyst.


On Tuesday, February 9th, a price of one ton of 95 fuel on the European ARA market (Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp) went below one thousand PLN (approximately 0.75 PLN per liter). This is the lowest level since 2003, not counting a few days at the end of 2008 when the PB 95 was estimated at approximately 0.60 PLN. The level of the prices is also similar to the one from the end of the 1990s.

However, Polish drivers benefit from the low fuel prices to a minor degree. According to the data from the European Commission, the average price of 95 fuel at the beginning of February was exactly 4 PLN per liter. This is 0.27 PLN less than one year ago. However, it is worth noting that at that time, the price of fuel expressed in the zloty on the ARA market decreased 50%.

Disregarding the fact that the price of fuel contains many tax fees (VAT, excise, fuel fee, supplementary fee), we are observing a historical difference between the wholesale price in Poland, and the wholesale price on the ARA market. It is approximately 0.60 PLN net per liter, in spite of the fact that during the past decade it was within the frame of 0.20-0.30 PLN.

Record low prices in the USA

The situation is totally different in the United States. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average price for one gallon of fuel dropped to 1.75 dollars (1.81 PLN per liter) in the second week of February. This means that Americans pay 30% less than the previous year. The fuel is even cheaper in the regions between the Gulf of Mexico and the Midwest. According to the EIA, the average price of one gallon is 1.51 USD (1.56 PLN per litre), and is the cheapest since mid-2004.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) also wrote about these record low prices in an article from February 9th. It says that some fuel stations in the state of Missouri sold fuel for 1.22 USD per gallon (1.27 PLN per liter). The cheapest fuel can be found at a 7-Eleven station in Oklahoma City. According to the WSJ, one gallon of fuel there costs only 1.11 USD, which equals 1.15 PLN per liter.

The Americans work only one minute for one liter of fuel

The above observations look even more interesting, if we enrich them with a salary comparison between Poland and the USA. According to the January's report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average hourly wage in the USA is 25.39 dollars (approximately 100 PLN). According to the Polish Central Statistical Office (GUS), in 2015 the average monthly salary in the Polish economy was 3899 PLN. This means that the average hourly wage in Poland was 23.2 PLN.

By comparing the average prices of fuel and the salaries in both countries, we can see that one hour of work in the USA is enough to buy 55 liters of fuel (slightly more than one minute of work/litre), whereas in Poland, it will be enough to buy only 5.8 liters. This means, that Poles have to work almost ten times longer (exactly 9.5) than Americans to buy the same amount of unleaded fuel.

In the end, it is also worth noting some positive information. Considering the currency exchange rates and the wholesale prices of fuel, the price of unleaded fuel in Poland should drop within the next two weeks by approximately 0.10-0.20 PLN. If the EIA forecasts regarding the future costs of oil appear accurate, diesel and fuel costs should remain within the area of 4 PLN for at least the first half of 2016.

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