David at MyTwoDollars asks if we can stop complaining about gas prices. I’m not so sure that complaining helps, but in my opinion it’s very understandable considering the circumstances.
Americans typically drive a long way to their jobs and public transportation isn’t common in much of the area. We are also denied many of the smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Where is the Smart Car version in the US? The Mini comes close, but isn’t quite there. Plus it wasn’t an option in 2001 when I bought my last car. My next car may be small or a hybird, but it’s hopefully going to be a long time before that happens.
Other countries have different economic climates – it’s really impossible to compare. Housing in the UK is smaller (from what I’ve seen) and people live closer together leading to what I’d expect to be smaller commutes. I also hear a lot about Europe’s amazing train system that can take through many countries very affordably. If they don’t have to drive as much due to the layout of their country the higher gas prices are not going to be as big a deal.
You also have to factor in the psychology of the rising rates. We had become conditioned to paying under $2.00 a gallon a few years ago. The price of gas has doubled when adjusted for inflation in California in 8 years! See $1.40 adjusted for inflation in that chart and the 2.80 for 2006 prices. I think the current California average gas price is probably over $3.00 adjusted for inflation today. Have our salaries, adjusted for inflation, doubled? Thus gas is eating up more of our (Americans or at least Californians) budgets than ever before.
The reality is that any time any necessary expense inflates more our paychecks there will be complaints. That’s why you see it housing. You see it with college as it’s largely considered a necessary expense by many nowadays. That’s a topic for a whole other day, though.
Update: As I finished up this article, I noticed that Flexo at Consumerism Commentary wrote about gas price complainers as well.