Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stop whining!

So, driving to work this morning, I happened to hear one of the ubiquitous "Americans are facing financial hardships because of rising gas prices" reports. And this time, instead of growling at the radio and switching to the classic rock station, I laughed. Because no matter how many times I hear this, I'm still astonished at how self-centered and ignorant of the rest of the world that Americans can be sometimes.

News flash! We actually pay less for our gas than a good chunk of the world. (Yeah, I know, not a news flash to anyone who reads this blog, since you're all smart people, but maybe someone will come across it and be surprised.)

Here's the skinny: Average US gas prices at the beginning of this week, as reported by the United States Energy Information Administration, list regular unleaded at about $3.50 a gallon. (By the way, why does anyone refer to regular, non-premium gas as unleaded anymore? They're
all unleaded.)

Now, here's a table from

Nation City Price in USD Regular/Gallon
Netherlands Amsterdam $6.48
Norway Oslo $6.27
Italy Milan $5.96
Denmark Copenhagen $5.93
Belgium Brussels $5.91
Sweden Stockholm $5.80
United Kingdom London $5.79
Germany Frankfurt $5.57
France Paris $5.54
Portugal Lisbon $5.35
Hungary Budapest $4.94
Croatia Zagreb $4.81
Ireland Dublin $4.78
Switzerland Geneva $4.74
Spain Madrid $4.55
Japan Tokyo $4.24
Czech Republic Prague $4.19
Romania Bucharest $4.09
Estonia Tallinn $3.62
Bulgaria Sofia $3.52
Brazil Brasilia $3.12
Cuba Havana $3.03
Taiwan Taipei $2.84
Lebanon Beirut $2.63
South Africa Johannesburg $2.62
Nicaragua Managua $2.61
Panama Panama City $2.19
Russia Moscow $2.10
Puerto Rico San Juan $1.74
Saudi Arabia Riyadh $0.91
Kuwait Kuwait City $0.78
Egypt Cairo $0.65
Nigeria Lagos $0.38
Venezuela Caracas $0.12

(All prices updated March, 2005.)

Here's a quote for you from the article:
Many European nations tax gasoline heavily, with taxes making up as much as 75 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, said a spokesperson for AirInc.

In a few Latin America and Middle-East nations, such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, oil is produced by a government-owned company and local gasoline prices are kept low as a benefit to the nation's citizens, he said.
And these prices are from three years ago.

I'm reminded of when I visited England about four years ago. I was working at an archaeological dig with students from Hull University in Yorkshire, and we were out shopping for groceries. I was rubbernecking at all the signs and stores, and I happened to notice the prices at a gas station. Figuring that I was getting about $2 to a British pound at that point, I did some calculations in my head and mentioned to my seatmate, "Wow, that's pretty cheap compared to gas back home!"

"You buy gas in gallons, right?" he asked.


"That's the price per liter."

And a gallon holds almost four liters. So even four years ago, when gas was occasionally under $2 a gallon, people in GB and Europe were still paying more than three times as much as the US. That was the last time I whined about high gas prices. And the rest of the country should, too. We don't need three cars or SUVs with names like "Sequoia" and "Escalade". People in other places make do with smaller and fewer vehicles, and, although many of those places do have better public transportation than we do, we can afford to start doing the same thing here.

This ends my unregularly scheduled ranting. :)


Anonymous said...

"In a few ... nations, ... oil is produced by a government-owned company and local gasoline prices are kept low as a benefit to the nation's citizens."

What I find somewhat amusing is that there is a segment of the American population that thinks the gov't should do something about the prices, but if you were to talk about nationalizing oil they would be fervently against it. You can't have your cake and eat it to.

Jessica Ball said...

Hey, I'm all for it if we get to pay $0.12 like the people in Venezuela.

I also want a hybrid 4WD vehicle that isn't massive and doesn't suck (i.e. is not made by Ford), but that won't happen either.

Callan Bentley said...

Why is Puerto Rico's gasoline so cheap? Last time I checked, they were part of the U.S.

Chris said...

Currently, in Wellington New Zealand, we're paying the equivalent of US$5.60 a gallon (NZ$1.89 per litre).

It hasn't been anywhere near NZ$1.18 a litre (US$3.50 a gallon) since 2004 (and I have photographic evidence from the end of my second year field trip :)

So I agree with Tuff. Stop complaining, Americans, you've got it pretty sweet. Until 1/3 of the price of your petrol is tax, and then you get sales tax piled on top (which includes a percentage of the petrol tax - we get sales tax on the petrol tax), you're not allowed to complain.

It costs $74 USD to fill a 13 gallon tank here. Still nothing compared to the UK (US$8.13 per gallon or £1.09 per litre)

Jessica Ball said...

Good question, Callan. I'm not sure; I suspect that it's partly because this is a list from three years ago. I found a few references that put the current price closer to $3 a gallon, but since they also have to import everything, I can't figure out why it isn't higher.

Silver Fox said...

Great poster! And I've tried to point this out to people for a long time, not that they necessarily care or listen.