Let's take a look at what gasoline actually costs with all this "skyrocketing" rhetoric: according to NationMaster.com (homepage link- this is an interesting and useful site), on the world gasoline prices page, US prices are 0.77 (that's 77%) of world average. In a list from highest to lowest, we rank 102nd out of 141 countries listed. For each $3 we spend (and I'm rounding a little here), you would spend $4 (or its equivalent) in the average country. Or to put it another way, for the price we pay for ten gallons, you would get only seven and a half in an average country. (To get a clearer description of exactly what these numbers represent, move your cursor over the Definition button at the top of the bar graphs)
TripAdvisor, a travel Web site, surveyed 4,000 people worldwide and found that 51 percent of American travelers are altering summer vacation itineraries because of soaring fuel prices. While 73 percent of those surveyed will take driving trips, 37 percent will take fewer road trips and 18 percent will drive shorter distances.
16 countries are paying double or more the price we are. Germany, at #19, and a country that I think most Americans would identify as Europe's industrial powerhouse, is paying 1.49 compared to our 0.77: not quite double but nearly so. In other words, quite a number of countries are paying nearly double the price Americans are. Their economies may not be quite as robust and productive as ours, but nearly so.
According to a recent report from The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy (57 pg PDF, 1.1 Mb) at Rice University, "The future of U.S. oil consumption is centered squarely on future developments in the transportation sector, which represents more than two-thirds of total petroleum use." A relatively small increase in efficiency or decrease in driving could have a relatively large impact on prices. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I haven't read this entire report yet, though I intend to. A further caveat: Most of the "Energy Forum Sponsors" listed on the seventh page are major oil producing or production support corporations- this suggests that the conclusions should be examined carefully for bias)
So my point is this: quit whining. Gasoline is far underpriced in our country. We as citizens and drivers could, if we chose, have a substantive impact in stabilizing its price with a few simple descisions. When I see a driver sitting in an enormous Hummer, complaing about how much it costs to fill his tank, and immediately afterward saying that he loves his vehicle and would never give it up (CNN around 3:00 PM today), I have no sympathy. Gasoline is a precious and, with known technology, essentially irreplaceable commodity. When the impact of "skyrocketing prices" reduces our travel plans between 1 and 0.1 percent, we ain't hurtin' that bad.