The average U.S. gas price has skyrocketed to $3.61, according to AAA. But Americans cough up only about half of the amount drivers pay per gallon in Europe, where steep fuel taxes fund public transit systems, among other projects. On the other extreme, oil-rich countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela, keep fuel dirt-cheap with generous subsidies that cost their governments billions.
Keep in mind that, with our suburbs, strip malls and gas guzzlers, Americans feel the pain at the pump more acutely than others.
Here’s a look at the average gas prices in early March for 11 countries around the world, collected by the German Agency for International Cooperation.
$5.56 per gallon
Although Canada is a major producer of oil (it’s the U.S.’s main provider, accounting for 24% of our crude oil in January), heavy taxes hit Canadian drivers hard. Pricing methods vary among provinces, with some choosing to regulate and others opting out. In February, Ontario’s motorists paid about 38% in taxes at the pump, more than triple the U.S. rate.
$8.29 per gallon
European countries are well-known for their sky-high gas prices. France is no exception, levying taxes of over $4.50 per gallon. One trade-off is Europe’s ubiquitous train system, with high-speed trains such as the Eurostar and Thalys linking the continent.
$9.96 per gallon
Turkey has the highest price on our list, soaring to almost $10 per gallon. Istanbul consistently ranks as one of the most expensive cities in which to buy gas.
$0.61 per gallon
Saudi Arabia boasts about one-fifth of the world’s oil reserves and is a significant supplier to the U.S. The price of gasoline is decided by royal decree, selling at a subsidized rate.
$1.44 per gallon
Although Iranians enjoy a gas subsidy, the government recently reduced its assistance, causing prices to soar. Drivers used to purchase a rationed 60 liters (about 16 gallons) of gas at about 10 cents per liter, with taxi drivers allowed more. The price has since quadrupled for the same fixed amount, according to Armin Wagner, an analyst at the German Agency for International Cooperation, a German-based group that studies global development.
$5.03 per gallon
In June 2010, the Indian government decided to deregulate gasoline prices, doing away with the subsidies that had long kept the cost low. The price has since increased by about $1.
$4.54 per gallon
China’s economic regulatory agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, adjusts the retail price of gasoline when the cost of crude oil changes by more than 4% over 22 business days. “When oil prices rally, China sometimes keeps oil lower than international rates to keep the economy going, prevent protests and promote social stability,” says Antoine Halff, a senior oil market analyst for the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
$6.62 per gallon
The island nation taxes motorists almost $3 per gallon, according to Energy Détente. A state-of-the-art railway system, which includes lightning-fast shinkansen (bullet trains), offsets the pain at the pump.
$5.41 per gallon
Australia’s gas prices are determined by a deregulated market where competition is the name of the game. A benefit to Australian consumers right now is their thriving currency, which recently traded at a record-breaking rate against the U.S. dollar.
$5.98 per gallon
In the Western hemisphere, only the U.S. and Canada outpace Brazil’s appetite for energy. The country is somewhat insulated from rising world oil prices because of its local supply of ethanol, harvested from sugarcane. Each of the country’s 33,000 gas stations offer pure hydrated ethanol, according to Brazil’s Surgarcane Association. And motorists can drive Flexfuel vehicles, designed to run on a mixture of gasoline and ethanol.
$0.08 per gallon
Venezuela boasts the lowest cost of gasoline on our list. Citizens pay just pennies per gallon, enjoying generous subsidies from President Hugo Chavez.
Like Iran and Saudi Arabia, oil-rich Venezuela has stitched affordable gas into its national fabric. “Oil is seen as a national resource, effectively owned by all and to which all are entitled,” says Halff. “The idea of cheap gasoline tends to be firmly entrenched in the political culture of those countries.”
-- German Agency for International Cooperation March 2011 Survey
-- Associates for International Research (AIRINC)
-- Lundberg Survey/Energy Détente from March 2011
-- U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)