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Europe tacks on larger fuel taxes than the United States

Rail travel could save you some European Union automotive fuel taxes, maybe enough for a nice meal in the train's dining car a la the one Willem Dafoe's character enjoyed (or not, judging by his expression) in the 2017 film version of Murder on the Orient Express. (Photo courtesy 20th Century Fox)

When I think of European travel, I immediately envision a train. OK, maybe I've watched Murder on the Orient Express (multiple versions) or Before Sunrise or A Little Romance or various Wes Anderson movies too many times.

Still, for an American, particularly one who's lived most her life in parts of the country where train cars are primarily for cattle (go ahead, insert your terrible travel joke here), the landscapes of Europe always looked even more romantic when seen via rail.

Still hitting the road abroad: While it is true many Europeans join tourists on trains, they also drive. In fact, before the COVID-19 pandemic reduced all types of travel, only around 8 percent of all passenger travel in the European Union for almost a decade was by train.

That's why global inflation affecting automotive fuel costs is hurting European motorists even more than U.S. drivers. A few weeks ago when we were watching gasoline prices roar past a $5 per gallon average, drivers in several European countries would have welcomed those petrol prices. Some were paying more than $8 per gallon.

Even though oil prices have dropped a bit recently, leading to lower gasoline costs around the world, European gas still is more expensive than what we put in our cars here in America.

Cargopedia keeps track of European fuel prices. Just remember the amounts are per liter, not per gallon, so multiply them by 3.78541 to accurately compare to what U.S. gas pumps dispense.

They also are shown in euros, not U.S. dollars, so that requires more math. This online currency converter can help.

GlobalPetrolPrices.com does the European auto fuel cost calculations for us. Be sure to double check that the boxes at top are set to U.S. dollars and U.S. gallons.

Fuel taxes are global: But one thing remains the same globally. Taxes add to fuel prices.

"The European Union requires EU countries to levy a minimum excise duty of €0.36 per liter (US $1.55 per gallon) on gasoline (petrol)," notes Adam Hoffer, director of Excise Tax Policy for the Tax Foundation.

The Washington, D.C.-based tax think tank created the map below to show gas taxes in Europe. Hoffers points out that only Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland stick to the minimum EU fuel tax rate, while all other EU countries opt to asses higher excise duties on gas.


Hoffer also notes that roughly 30 percent of new passenger vehicles in the EU run on diesel, which, as in the United States, also faces an excise tax there. The EU sets a slightly lower minimum excise duty on diesel of €0.33 per liter ($1.48 per gallon).

So even though here in the United States we still are paying more than we want to fill up our cars, our gas is still cheaper than in many parts of the world.

Train travel travail: In addition to sharing higher automotive fuel costs, the United States and Europe are experiencing record-breaking heat waves that are exacerbating wildfires.

The screenshot below from a Weather Channel video shows passengers on train in Spain enduring some anxious moments when the locomotive was surrounded by flames on Monday, July 18.

Flames outside a stopped train_Weather Channel video screenshot
The train was able to continue to its destination after a few minutes, but further rail service was stopped due to the fires.  

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