(Bloomberg) — How does an Aruban taxi driver who shuttles mostly U.S. visitors around the Dutch Caribbean save $17,000 a year? By sailing to Venezuela to buy the world’s cheapest fuel.
The driver, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because what he’s doing is illegal, said he makes the 18-mile trip to Venezuela’s Paraguana Peninsula at least once a week, loading as much as 104 gallons of Venezuelan gasoline into numerous small containers at a cost of $120. The $3.09 a gallon he saves after expenses on each trip adds up to almost $17,000 a year.
In Venezuela, 95-octane fuel costs 0.097 bolivar a liter, or about a fifth of a U.S. penny a gallon using the black market rate of 186 bolivars a dollar. Gasoline costs about $4.24 a gallon at Texaco and Valero service stations in Aruba.
Fuel prices in Venezuela, which boasts the world’s biggest crude reserves, haven’t risen in 19 years after increases in 1989 sparked protests that swept across the nation, helping precipitate Hugo Chavez’s rise to power. Currency devaluations and the world’s highest inflation at 64 percent have pushed down the cost in dollar terms and prompted smuggling to Colombia and other Caribbean countries.