What explains the rise in gasoline in the country

Experts point out a series of factors to explain the rise in fuel prices in the country. This year alone, there were nine adjustments made by Petrobras in gasoline, causing the fuel to leave the refineries at R$ 2.78 per liter. At the stations, they are reaching R$ 7.

O UOL Debate this Friday, 27, brought together three big names in the economy to explain why such a sharp rise in gasoline in recent years.

“Oil is a commodity and commodities are priced on international commodity exchanges, and it is a matter that depends on the law of supply and demand. When there is a great demand for the commodity, greater than the supply, the price rises. In part, this is what is happening, demand is very high,” says Paulo Roberto Feldmann, economics professor at FEA-USP (Faculty of Economics, Administration, Accounting and Actuarial at the University of São Paulo).

Feldman also points out the existence of a cartel on the part of the OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), which sets the international price of oil. Currently, the price of a barrel is selling for around $70. In March of last year, he was in his late 20s.

Oil is practically the only case that exists in the world economy where a cartel is recognized and even accepted by everyone. Consumption has risen and producers want to take advantage of the situation, having an advantage that they can combine prices between them, because they are a cartel
Paulo Roberto Feldmann

The economist also points out the devaluation of the real against the dollar as a factor in the rise of gasoline. Today, the American currency is worth around R$ 5.20, after falling to R$ 4.90 in June. But last March it hit R$ 5.80.

“Oil that is purchased abroad is paid in dollars and our currency has weakened a lot in recent months. Two years ago, for example, the conversion from dollar to real was 4, now it reaches 5.5, sometimes up to 5.7. When you bring the oil here, you have to pay in reais, you have to buy more dollars to pay. This also explains the very high price we are paying at the gas pump,” he declares Feldman.


To Pedro Rodrigues, director of CBIE (Brazilian Center for Infrastructure), the ICMS, charged by the states, would be one of the main villains in the price of gasoline, without forgetting PIS/Cofins (federal taxes). The expert says that the impact of all taxes on fuel prices, not just ICMS, can reach 50% of their value.

In Brazil, when people put a liter of gasoline in their car, almost 50% of the amount the consumer is paying is taxes, PIS/Cofins, which is lower, but mainly our villain, which is ICMS, charged due to a percentage above a base price of a liter of gasoline
Pedro Rodrigues

The economist minimizes OPEC’s role in the final price of gasoline. He says that Brazil may have an expensive fuel price compared to the United States, but perhaps cheaper compared to the United Kingdom.

“It’s no use just blaming the oil industry, the volatility normal prices, the exchange rate or even Petrobras, which has passed on the prices of the international market. This tax factor, especially the ICMS, is also very relevant for us to have expensive gasoline in Brazil, perhaps compared to the United States, but perhaps cheaper compared to the United Kingdom,” says Pedro.

Feldman, however, remembers that the current system of taxes on gasoline does not come from today.

Of course, taxes carry significant weight. Now, this tax burden is a tax burden that has existed for a long time. That’s why I wouldn’t attribute this increase now to the tax burden, because it’s not new, it’s been there for a long time
Paulo Roberto Feldmann

The professor at FEA-USP also warns that the possible change in the ICMS is not an easy solution to be made. In the current system, the ICMS rate varies from state to state, but it is not charged on the “final price of the pump”, but on an average of the values ​​at the stations, called PMPF (Weighted Average Price for the Final Consumer).

“The states live on the basis of ICMS. If you change the ICMS, you will create problems for the states of the federation immediately. So, there is no way to reduce the ICMS, as President Bolsonaro suggested some time ago, attributing the blame to the price of the gasoline to the governors. It would not be correct, because the state governments live off the ICMS, it is practically the only tax”, says Feldman.

monopolizing Petrobras?

Rodrigo Zingales, executive director of AbriLivre, draws attention to the possibility that Petrobras may adjust its prices, regardless of what is defined internationally. The economist sees the Brazilian company as a fuel monopoly in the country.

In the case of refining and oil production itself, Petrobras is a monopolist, and also as a monopolist, just like the OPEC cartel, Petrobras also defines and determines its price. It does have an international parity policy, but in a competitive market, the international price is not competitive, because it is defined by the OPEC cartel
Rodrigo Zingales

Zingales argues that Petrobras would be able to set its own prices, saying that its production costs are lower than those on the international market.

“The government could adopt a policy to guarantee Petrobras what we call competitive profits and also make Petrobras reduce domestic prices. By reducing domestic prices, the population would also benefit and would benefit from it,” says the economist .