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Gas coupon prices at lowest of year in Italy

Drivers can expect to pay $66 for a booklet in December

By SANDRA JONTZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 28, 2006

NAPLES, Italy — The cost for fuel coupon booklets for December in Italy will dip to their lowest price for the year on Friday, an official said.

The price for a 100-liter booklet for unleaded fuel will decrease from the November price of $76 to $66, the lowest monthly price this year, and $2 cheaper than the previous low set in March and April.

“I have good news for you. Prices have gone down,” Bart Di Muccio, administrator of the tax-free products program for all of Italy, said Monday.

Elsewhere in Europe, fuel prices will change only slightly in December after motorists enjoyed as much as a 23-cent drop a gallon in November. According to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, on average, diesel prices will increase about 2 cents a gallon, and unleaded gas will increase anywhere from one-tenth of a cent to 2 cents, depending on base locations in Europe and the grade of fuel purchased.

The U.S. Department of Energy listed the U.S. average as 3.8 cents higher per gallon than last year for regular unleaded fuel.

In Italy, the drop in price means motorists there will pay $2.50 a gallon for unleaded at the pump, versus the $2.88 a gallon they’re currently paying.

The price for a 100-liter booklet for diesel will decrease from $86 to $75, Di Muccio said.

“Hey, I’m all for lower gas prices,” said Mike Wonderly, a civilian industrial hygienist at the Capodichino base health clinic. He drives a minivan, and the bigger vehicle engine makes him eligible to buy up to 400 liters a month. The cheaper prices mean he can put more cash toward his hobby of mountain biking, he said.

Each month, the tax-free office, based in Naples, sets prices for fuel coupon sales by calculating changes in the barrel price of fuel, fluctuations in the currency exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the euro, and any gains or losses the Navy Exchange incurred the month before, Di Muccio said.

In Italy, there are no fuel stations on the military bases. U.S. and NATO forces fuel up on the economy, using the prepaid coupons in exchange for the fuel. Coupons are sold at the Navy Exchange and Army and Air Force Exchange Service outlets.

The Italian government grants U.S. and NATO personnel roughly $70 million a year in tax exemptions, of which roughly $65 million is for fuel, Di Muccio said. The rest are exemptions for tobacco and alcohol products.

There was no single factor that contributed to the December decline, Di Muccio said.

In October, with the start of the new fiscal year, the tax-free products office changed the look of the coupons, and added a bar code to the coupons that will help officials track how, where, when, and by whom the coupons are used, Di Muccio said.