CNN on Gas Prices

CNN has a very interesting article this morning on gas taxes, gas prices, and the impact they have had:

U.S. gas: So cheap it hurts

First, a couple of tables that show how gas prices differ around the world:

Most expensive places to buy gas

Rank Country Price/gal

1. Sierra Leone $18.42
2. Aruba $12.03
3. Bosnia-Herzegovina $10.86
4. Eritrea $9.58
5. Norway $8.73
6. United Kingdom $8.38
7. Netherlands $8.37
8. Monaco $8.31
9. Iceland $8.28
10. Belgium $8.22
111. United States $3.45

Where gasoline is cheapest

Rank Country Price/gal

1. Venezuela 12 cents
2. Iran 40 cents
3. Saudi Arabia 45 cents
4. Libya 50 cents
5. Swaziland 54 cents
6. Qatar 73 cents
7. Bahrain 81 cents
8. Russia 88 cents
9. Egypt 89 cents
10. Kuwait 90 cents
45. United States $3.45

On the impact of gas prices, a few excerpts:

The U.S. has always fought to keep gas prices low, and the current debate among presidential candidates on how to keep them that way has been fierce.

But those cheap gas prices – which Americans have gotten used to – mean they feel price spikes like the ones we’re experiencing now more acutely than citizens from other nations which have had historically more expensive fuel.

Cheap gas prices have also lulled Americans into a cycle of buying bigger cars and bigger houses further away from their work – leaving them more exposed to rising prices, some experts say.

And their comparisons of the U.S. versus Europe:

Gas consumption Europe vs. U.S.

There is some evidence Europe’s high gas taxes have capped its oil consumption.

Oil use in the United Kingdom has basically stayed flat from 1980 to now, while in France it’s dropped 17%, according to figures from the Energy Information Administration.

In the U.S., meanwhile, oil use is up 21% over the same period, although the country has added more people and seen its economy grow slightly faster.

Americans have taken advantage of cheap gas prices to do other things – like buy bigger cars and bigger houses further away from city centers, said Schipper.

On a per capita basis, Americans use three times more oil than Europeans, he said. That means Americans are more exposed to rising gas prices than their counterparts across the Atlantic.

“Five-thousand square feet in the suburbs, that’s much rarer in Europe,” said Schipper, referring to big homes. “We dug our hole.”

When I checked, most European countries had half the per capita energy consumption of the U.S., not one third as the article claims. It may be that I was looking at total energy – including electricity – and for oil alone their claim is correct. But I would have to check into it.