Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Are Gas Prices Really That High?

     Who's concerned about the price of gasoline? I sure am. It cost me $55 to fill up my tank the other day, with medium grade gas at $3.99 a gallon.

     I've often thought -- usually late at night, sometimes after I've had a glass of wine -- that gasoline prices should actually be higher, that the state and federal governments should increase gasoline taxes to foster conservation.

     I'm usually on the side that says we should not raise taxes, because those of us in the middle class (not people making over 250K per year) get taxed too much. I work for myself and have to pay 15 percent of my earnings right off the top for Social Security. Then there are federal, state, local, real estate, sales ... well, you know the lineup.

     But let's face it, if gas was more expensive, we might buy cars with better gas mileage; we might live closer to work; we might car pool or take the train to work. We might think twice before driving 20 miles to go to the mall, or just to meet someone for lunch. We might convert trucks to use natural gas.

     Of course, then in the light of day I have to fill up my gas tank, and I go, "Fifty five dollars. Yikes! What's the world coming to?!??"

     Still, it might be worth it to keep ourselves out of trouble in the Middle East. So we don't have to send soldiers to die in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya.

     I did a little research. The average price right now for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in the U.S. is $3.81. Of course, it varies from place to place. It's more than that in New York, where I live. It's less in New Jersey, because New Jersey has lower gas taxes.

     But first thing to realize is that, adjusted for inflation, gas is not much more expensive than it was when we were kids in the 1960s. It's gone up a little more than inflation; but less than housing costs or medical costs or college tuition costs. The other issue is that almost everyone else in the world pays more than we do for gas. As you can see from this first list, Europeans pay more than double what we pay. And they have fewer soldiers fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan.

                                 Country                    Price/gal. of gas 

           Spain ............................. $7.50
           United Kingdom............ $8.00
           Denmark ....................... $8.70
           Italy ............................... $8.75
           Germany ....................... $8.80
           The Netherlands ............ $9.65
   
     How about elsewhere in the Americas? All these countries produce a lot of oil. But with the exception of heavily-subsidized Venezuela, nobody gets a bargain on gas prices.

     Venezuela .................... $0.10
     Mexico ......................... $2.70
     Brazil ........................... $5.80
     Canada ......................... $6.90 

  
     There is one region of the world where gas is cheap, even cheaper than in the U.S., and that's the Middle East. Except for Turkey and Israel, where there's little or no oil.

            Saudi Arabia .............. $0.65   
            Kuwait ....................... $0.85
            Iraq ............................ $1.50
            Israel .......................... $7.50
            Turkey ........................ $9.70

      We could easily slap another dollar of tax onto a gallon of gasoline, and we'd still be better off than the Europeans and most of the rest of the world. Then maybe we'd have fewer soldiers fighting for oil wells in the Middle East. We might reduce carbon emissions. And maybe our local governments would have some extra money to fix all those potholes!
.

5 comments:

Linda Myers said...

Seems to me we're a people who want what we want. We want big cars and trucks and SUVs and we want cheap gas. We complain about multiple wars but I suspect they're all about the oil. I'd rather drive a little less and have our troops come home.

We walk where the destination is less than a mile or two away and drive a Prius and an Accord otherwise. That's been our habit for years now.

It actually might be good for us as a culture to sacrifice a little.

Just my opinion, as usual.

June said...

I'm glad to see these comparative figures that you've provided. I don't concern myself too much with the price of gas (it's $3.99+ where I am, for "regular"). I do what I can...combine trips, etc. But I live where I must drive sixteen miles to a job. No one who works where I do lives near me, so no carpooling, and no bus routes where a four-mile-long road hosts three residences.
It just is what it is.
I just wish people didn't have to go and die.
For anything that is simply a commodity.

schmidleysscribblins.wordpress.com said...

Gas prices are relatively inelastic. My granddaughters are working for gas money instead of other stuff. David and I are using points earned by the grocery bill to help pay for gas. We are all less well off these days I suppose. Dianne

Dick Klade said...

Interesting statistics; it was good of you to pull them together. I've felt the sting of those high European costs several times in Germany. We must remember, though, that distances between cities and homes and jobs are short compared to those in the U.S. And, those countries generally have much better public transportation systems than we do. Those factors make the high costs per gallon much easier to take, I'm sure.

That said, I think an extra buck or two tax in the U.S. would result in much good. But being a fully mature adult with a fixed (declining in the past few years) income, another tax would hit us pretty hard. I doubt most people would support the idea.

Hope said...

Very interesting. We did a double take buying gas in France, but it was a tiny car and we drove a loooong way on that tank of gas.

I'm with you on the gas tax, although as others have said, it would be met with loud screaming, because WE'RE AMERICANS, DAMN IT! We don't have to sacrifice because we DESERVE IT.

Of course, the big problem is that we're running out of oil and the day will come when it gets REALLY ugly...not just expensive. Just a question of whether we toast ourselves off the planet first. Gosh, I'm cheery tonight, aren't I? :)