I must admit that I do tend to clench my teeth a little these days when I pop into the gas station to fill up my truck. Gas was so much cheaper when I first came to America 22 years ago… (cue fuzzy effect on the visuals and a ripple effect on the harp to indicate a flashback…)
Actually, speaking of flashbacks, I just bounced over to the 1990s Flashback site. If you take a look at the Page for 1990 (the year I first graced this country with my presence), you’ll see that the average price of a gallon of regular gas was only $1.16 (wow!) [Do you want to guess how much a gallon of gas cost back in 1970? Click Here to find out.]
So, the fact that regular gas is now something like $3.65 a gallon (I think that’s what I paid a couple of days ago) really does equate to a humongous rise in price.
But having said this, when I talk to my family and friends in the UK, I realize how lucky we are and how good we have it over here, because they are paying at least twice as much for gas.
Of course, working out exactly how much they are paying relative to how much I’m paying does tend to make my eyes water and my brain ache. First we have to juggle the fact that I pay by the gallon while they now pay by the liter … which is further confused by the fact that my mother always insists on converting those liters back into gallons in her head.
The reason this becomes really painful is that we then have to play the game that the British “Imperial” gallon is approximately 4.546 liters, as compared to the American “liquid” gallon, which equates to approximately 3.79 liters (and don’t even get me started on the lesser-used American “dry” gallon).
The trick is to come up with some way to compare how much folks in different countries actually pay for their gas relative to one another and to their citizens' wages. So I was quite excited to hear about an article on Bloomberg.com that does just this – it ranks 55 countries by average price at the pump and by "pain at the pump," where the latter is measured as a function of the percentage of average daily income needed to buy a gallon of fuel.
If you Click Here you will be taken to the first of 57 pages in a slide show that takes you through all of the countries. Alternatively, you can Click Here to be taken directly to the Grand Finale.
The bottom line is that the folks in Norway are #1 (higher is worse) when it comes to price, because they have to pay a whopping $9.69 per gallon, while the United Kingdom comes in at #9 paying $8.84 a gallon, and America comes in at #44 paying only $4.19 a gallon. (For some reason the folks at Bloomberg chose to use premium gas prices as the basis for this comparison – I personally use regular gas, but I’m reasonably confident that the relative comparison of premium-to-premium and regular-to-regular will hold true.)
The strange thing is when we come to consider the ”Pain Rankings,” which – as we previously noted – Bloomberg defines as “The percentage of average daily income needed to buy a gallon of fuel.” In this case, Americans are way down the pile at #50 out of #55, meaning that we should be feeling almost no pain whatsoever (the higher the number the better in this case). Strange to relate, Norwegians (who pay the most for their gas) come in at #48 on the pain rankings.
The thing is that using “percentage of daily income” as a measure doesn’t really cover all of the bases. Another consideration is how far you have to travel on average. In England, most folks I know in my hometown of Sheffield in Yorkshire (God’s own county) typically travel only around 5 miles to get to work (and most of them use public transport in the form of busses). By comparison, in America, a lot of people I know think nothing of driving 15 or 20 miles to work and then taking a 10 or 15 mile trip at lunchtime to visit their favorite catfish restaurant (did I mention that I live in the South Eastern part of the USA?).
Then there’s the concept of “disposable income”. If you live in a place where your house payment (mortgage or rent) and taxes account for say 75% of your income, then you are going to have less to spend on gas (in relative terms) than if these items account for only 60% of your income.
Also, as someone commented on the Bloomberg article, the impact at the pump hits people differently depending on what they do. On average, it’s probably fair to say that a 50-cent-per-gallon price hike in gas will hit a hotel maid or a retail store clerk a lot harder than it will a doctor, lawyer, or politician.
Now my head really hurts…
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