For all the theatrical political venom directed at the oil companies, the US-based companies represent only 13% of the world's output, a mere drop in the bucket. The real powerhouses are the state-owned operations in Russia, China, Venezuela, etc. All the finger pointing, all the speeches about price-gouging and windfall profits won't change that simple fact. And it won't alter the law of supply and demand.
At the end of the day, there are only so many solutions: drive down global demand or drive up domestic supply. If we could only harness the hot air being generated by the politicians and the media these days, we might solve the problem once and for good. In the meantime, we must conserve (manufacturers are leading the way in doing it and in inventing the newest technology) and we must search for new sources of fuel. Manufacturers there, too, are the ones who will invent and perfect it. But we also must continue to tap domestic supplies of oil, both on shore and off.
Here's a Department of Energy chart that tracks the price of gasoline (including taxes) on a weekly basis for Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and the UK since 1/1/96 through 4/10/2006. The price of a gallon of gasoline has remained more than twice as expensive in all those countries over the past 10 years. If Americans think they have pump shock at pumps here they should make a point of going to Europe and purchasing a tank of petro at the pump. Standard European pricing for petro makes rental car company pricing seem sane.
Here's an MSNBC article about gas prices in other places. This article uses the same DOE source I linked above but also brings us this interesting little tidbit:
As of April 10, drivers in the Netherlands were paying the equivalent of about $6.73 a gallon at the pump. The gas itself cost $2.61; the rest — $4.12 — represented tax. That’s a 158 percent tax.Read that and weep.
Here's a CNN Money article (a bit dated, nearly a year old) that looks at gasoline prices around the world. In Venezuela, in May of 2004, the price per gallon was only $0.14. Yes, that's fourteen cents. Anyone wanna go live in Venezuela or trade Bush for Chavez straight up? In fact, I'm pretty sure few of us want to live in the places where gasoline is less expensive than it is here in the US.
Lastly here is another old article (Oct. 2005) - High Oil Prices Met With Anger Worldwide
Rising fuel prices are stoking popular anger around the world, throwing politicians on the defensive and forcing governments to resort to price freezes, tax cuts and other measures to soothe voter resentment.
The latest example came this weekend in Nigeria, where President Olusegun Obasanjo promised in a nationally televised Independence Day speech that the cost of gasoline would not increase further until the end of 2006, no matter what happened in global oil markets. He acted after furious demonstrations shut down whole sections of major cities around the country over the past several weeks.
During 1980-1981, gasoline spending in the United States corresponded to an average 4.5 percent of GDP, 7.2 percent of consumer expenditures, and 6.2 percent of personal disposable income, Goldman said.
"Our new $50-$105 per bbl super spike range perhaps conservatively corresponds to gasoline spending in the United States that reaches 3.6 percent of forecasted GDP, 5.3 percent of consumer expenditures, and 5.0 percent of personal disposable income.
Goldman said that were it to assume gasoline spending needed to reach 1970s levels to destroy demand, its upside super-spike estimate would be $135 per barrel for New York crude."
Hmmm... That suggests that, compared to 1981, in 2006 the US spends 20% less as a percentage of GDP, 26% less as a percentage of comsumer expenditures, and 24% less as a percentage of disposable income. 1981, BTW, was 2 years after the inflation adjusted record price for oil.