Petrol at £2.50 a gallon? Do stop moaning America

Petrol prices have just hit $4 per gallon in the US. For us Brits, that’s £2.52. I only vaguely remember the heady days when it was that cheap. It was 1994, I had a full head of hair and that other expense – offspring was but a twinkle in my then wandering eye.

So do I feel sorry for the Americans? Not really. I admit they have greater distances to cover than we do. But the argument they don’t have viable public transport doesn’t really stack up. We don’t either; at least none that’s affordable without remortgaging.

The main reason I have little sympathy is that whenever I go to the US, there are the same monster pick-ups and big sedans with one person in them stationary in jams.

So, fuel costing 4 bucks obviously isn’t getting Americans to change their driving habits. And why should it? It didn’t over here. In fact, the trend towards downsizing our cars only really took off a couple of years ago when petrol broke through the magic £5 ($7.94) per gallon mark.

It’s a bitter pill. I HATE having politicians dictate that a big car is economically unsustainable for me. But actually there’s much to be said for driving a smaller car. It’s easier to park and manoeuvre round town. The VW Polo I’ve got is comfortable and full of the kind of kit you get on bigger motors. It just doesn’t cost as much to run.

Of course it’s impossible to argue all the pros and cons in a couple of hundred words. But I fear it’ll take US fuel prices to double before the Americans get much sympathy from this side of the Atlantic.

For more, check http://us.cnn.com/2012/02/28/opinion/opinion-european-gas-prices/index.html

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About James Foxall

My 25-year career has been built on writing words that audiences want to read. Those words have been clear, concise, and imbued with the personality of the organisation they were shaped for. They’ve appeared in specialist magazines and national newspapers as well as marketing materials for commercial organisations. I was motoring editor at the News of the World for seven years and I still write a regular column for the Daily Telegraph. More recently as companies become publishers I’ve transferred my editorial skills to commercial organisations. My entire career has been in the automotive industry; my passion for effective communication is still rivalled only by my love of cars and motor sport. View all posts by James Foxall

12 responses to “Petrol at £2.50 a gallon? Do stop moaning America

  • Tom

    James, the real problem in the US is how hard the Government makes it for manufacturers to sell diesels. If we had more diesel options, our fuel consumption would go way down, and MPG’s would go way up.

    We currently have zero small trucks or SUV’s with Diesel engines, and only 1 or 2 manufacturers making any diesel passenger cars.

    This is a big difference between europe and the us in terms of what we drive, and how we drive.

  • Mike

    Look I grew up in Europe and you CANNOT compare the two situations. I am so tired of people that do.

    1) Europe spent the money on infrastructure. Trains, busses, heck even cabs are everywhere and part of every day life. For me to get downtown here in the US would take about the same time as going between London and Paris for you (ok slight exageration). The point is a huge population in the US doesn’t have access to transportation infrastructure beyond driving themselves.

    2) I came to the US 13 years ago – gas was 78 cents in the South. 78 cents a gallon. We have had a five-folded increase here in the US since then. It is up 520%!!!!!!! this is way more than it has gone up in Europe.

    Travel here is often driving around between states to visit families. We don’t fly Ryan air, get on a bus and then go visit relatives or do a charter trip that means living by the pool in Mallorca. We drive around and see sights and visit our relatives in a way that European don’t. Stop comparing apples to oranges

    Those of us who live in the US can still complain :). If you want to compare look at average miles that a US driver puts on a vehicle compared to someone living in the UK……. The answer is 40% more if you don’t feel like looking it up.

  • THE LORD OF EXCESS

    First I agree with what your saying 100% …. I’ll give a cathartic lamentation here but I agree with you and wish more people were saying these things here in the US.

    First I will say that in general regarding cars the UK America comparison is not a good one. Look at the American west for example. Say someone wants to go from a rural place anywhere in the west to a major city. You might easily have a 400 mile drive with zero option for bus, plane, train passage. You can either get in your car and drive or not go. America hitched its hopes to the car 100% we are deeply impacted more than probably any other nation in the world because we have pretty much ZERO mass transit options anywhere. In the UK a long drive might be 50 or 100 miles … in the US … its 800 or 900 miles. Buy gas for that trip buddy. So to hell with your lame 12 pounds a gallon … who cares … you can ride the train or the bus. Even in our cities … especially in the west the entire city was built specifically FOR the car the massive boulevards 8+ lanes wide the huge spaghetti bowl freeway interchanges, expressways and beltways all over the place. Not a true mass transit system in sight.
    After WW II Europe returned to the train and built roads and highway networks but nothing as comprehensive and complete as what we did here in the US.

    Beyond that yes we are idiots but what choice do we have? Watch the movie Tucker … cheesy and dated but the spirit of that film is correct … the auto manufacturers control the regulation of cars, every aspect of that. The government lip service about this or that is meaningless the actual laws about emissions, fuel efficiency, etc. etc. its all up to the car manufacturers high paid lobbyists they tell congress what is what and congress rubber stamps it. Most Americans would love affordable 80 MPG wimpy looking econo-cars despite the stereotypes otherwise. The “average” American is a poor single parent with no ability to buy some gas guzzling souped up wanna-be sports car … yet they can’t afford a $40,000.00 econo car looking hybrid. So they are trapped with having to buy a used 5 or 10 (or older) year old car, mostly a big gas guzzling SUV or minivan or something having to worry about the child (or children) car seat requirements, etc. Even if they wanted to buy say a semi-economical Toyota or Honda … those are going for a premium on the used car market and thanks to our lack of strict requirements on efficiency … they might get mid 30s MPG … when gas is 5 per gallon and an individual has a 40 mile one way commute to work … do the math … serious financial impact.

    So the catch 22 is America is built with a single mode of transport option … the car … that is it … try to build mass transit somewhere and your a dirty pinko commie. So we have only the car and the auto manufacturers get to tell us through our corrupt regulatory system how efficient the cars will be (not very) … so ya … welcome to our world and be glad your not in it. We have serious problems facing us as a nation and the CAR ONLY transportation system is nothing to scoff at.

    I do agree with you thought that it is going to take some serious pain to change how we do things. I love cars, I own a classic American muscle car actually (68 Camaro) and two Jeeps that are fun out in the Utah deserts. But I see my fellow citizens struggling and I have to admit that I use my toys less and less and have finally seen the need to start looking to a hybrid for my primary mode of transport. But I would happily support a rail option as well. Here in Utah we do actually have some mass transit in and around the Salt Lake City area (thanks mostly to the 2002 winter Olympics)

  • Mo Wynn

    Once gasoline rises to such levels EVERYTHING in the US costs more.Companies rightly claim prices are due to companies putting transportation cost increases on all items sold. This starts a creep which makes all working class and lower families and individuals to start paying more. I’d suggest you drive from one end of England to the other and then compare it with driving from one end of say the state of Texas to the other. That would only leave you with an additional 47 continuous states to drive through.

    The car has truly made the US what it is and the whole idea of freedom what it is for Americans. Want to wake up and drive off..then go. Stay in the car and take a six hour trip if you’d like. Live in one community and commute 30-45 miles daily to another if you choose. No border checkpoints-no entering another country-just an open road.

    Clearly there are Americans many Americans stuck in their ordinance/rules for everything cities in close quarters who think such notions are quaint at best and obsolete at worst. But what do they demand to live in their cramped existence? Trucks, lots of them bringing everything in a never-ending train of goods-fuel oils to heat and cool massive areas of buildings-and a climate change of stripped land and smog. Lovely!

    Once Americans are trapped into great herds of citizens being public transported like so much cattle then America, the free and fill the continent America of expansion will end. And we will just be so much living tissue…just like everyone else.

    Mo Wynn
    Greenville SC USA

  • Brandon

    James,
    I just wanted to say that your right, a lot of Americans do moan about their Gas prices, but some have a right to. Think about this, a farmer has to pay for gas for the milk truck to come and get the milk as well as out to the delivery point. Costing the average milk farmer more in Gas to ship milk then he earns from producing the milk. Farmers and construstion workers are the ones who need pick-up trucks (i don’t feel sorry for anyone else) they aren’t buying trucks because they like them. They buy them because they need the power to haul things, if gas continues to rise it’ll set farming business back 500 years which will make our food prices go up even more, which will drain more money from countries we ship our food to, making daily life for everyone more expensive. I think everyone has a right to complain about Gas when companies like Tesla has cars that are 100% electric and can go 0-60 in 4 seconds and we arn’t mass producing them because of preasure from the auto/gas giants. If Tesla made a truck for farmers, came out with cheaper batteries by mass production/cost cutting/etc, and had more locations. I believe we would all be on our way to Gas freedom!

  • Aaron B.

    We need to make sure we are comparing apples to apples.
    This argument is more like red apples to those little green ones.

    1) An Imperial Gallon is 20% larger than a US gallon.
    2) UK petrol (gasoline) is refined more and has a higher base octane.
    UK is 95 (I believe) the US is 87. The US premium gasoline is only 91.

    With this information you can compare red apples to red apples:
    UK price of a gallon compared to US = $5.51-$5.75

    And I am sure we need not get into the taxes that the UK places on their petrol vs the US.

  • Richard Johnson

    The author should first remove all “add on” taxes from both his european gas prices and the american gas prices, so that a true cost of gas can be analyzed. His socialist life choice should not be included in any comparison with the USA. I predict that the variances in gas prices are not that different when a fair comparison is made. Then consider the distances one must cover in commuting in the United States vs. Europe (where mass transit is more highly developed and practical). Do the research before writing your next article.

  • Nickolas Danger

    I don’t live in the UK so I don’t care what your gas costs. Almost every price on every product is affected by the price of gas. The UK is a small country by land mass compared to the US. If you want to compare the two, compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges. In the United States you come off as a bloody, whinny biatch!!

  • Roza

    The article makeks very valueble points and there is a huge room for improvment in terms of fuel efficiency in the U.S. I was born in Europe and I am an environmentalis at hart. In fact, I rode bike with my husband for miles both during colege years and to work,rain or snow. This was until we had two children. Small car became a non-starter. We need a safe car and a car when I can carpool with other families as we both work. I need the car to drop off kids at chool and to afterschool activities. Our suburbs have unbeatable public school system with most inefficient transportation. I do not relish the idea of being hit by a truck when my kids are small. I rather protect environment in other ways. When kids grow up we may move back to the city where we can walk. In the meantime, I am using safest car I can afford,never mind the cost. Just haveto save by cutting on my kid’s college savings…But do not compare US to Europe…we are build differently and have more vast distances to cover. No money for good public transportation in the near future, so for the time being no bicykles or trams for us…

  • mogrady

    Why have we not utilized our vast Internet services that support big businesses daily activities to reduce our dependency on oil by using Telecommuting as a strategic reduction tool? There is sufficient evidence that we do possess a significant number of US (and global) workers in this country that are capable of working any time, anywhere as a result of efforts by many corporate IT departments who have invested a great deal of effort and money to create VPN networks that permit secure communications over wired and wireless networks. I truly believe that we can drastically reduce demands on gasoline and oil by encouraging up to 25 million US workers to Telecommute a few days per week. The impact of this would drive out those investors that may be speculating on Crude Oil futures and the prices at the pump would bottom out to a much more reasonable price.

    Consider these points:

    • The glass, copper and wireless and other hardware systems that comprise the Internet Services represent a ubiquitous form of digital fuel that is much cheaper to install, maintain and secure than any petroleum or biofuel fuel sources anywhere on the planet.
    • Over 70% of the Fortune 1000 Corporations in America have installed VPN Systems.
    • Corporate deployments of laptops for workers is rapidly being replaced by Smart devices, tablets and Hosted Virtual Desktop environments. Millions of US workers do carry portable devices which allow them to securely connect to work any time day or night. In 2007 for example there were 32 million business laptops sold in the US.
    • Modern Telecommunications networks allows data, voice and video – in real time to happen on a global basis.
    • Over 85% of working adults carry either business issued or personal cell phones. New smart devices and tablets have easy to use video built right into them. No training necessary!
    • Video and Audio Conferencing Systems are widely available to many businesses and in fact are used extensively as a means to reduce the expense of Corporate Travel
    • 70 million households in the US have High Speed Internet Services thanks to the FCC efforts to modernize the Broadband networks through the states, and competition in the market are driving prices lower, adding features and raising the quality for residential customers.

    There is a real concern that prices for gasoline will not drop back to pre 2010 levels. This is partially caused by increased demand in new overseas markets like India and China as well as the fact that we have used up the readily accessible sources for crude oil and now are pursuing deposits that are located in harsh and inaccessible regions of our oceans. The cheap stuff is simply drying up and unless we can find alternatives or new commuting efficiencies, then all Goods and Services will also climb in price globally.

    • Allowing access to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve did nothing to reduce prices at the pump. True market forces are not evident and petroleum and gasoline have always been highly manipulated commodities.
    • The peak costs for US drivers for gasoline typically are in mid summer, and it is quite likely we will be seeing $5.00 or more per gallon prices well before the end of Spring
    • CAFÉ regulations for more fuel efficient cars will take some time to generate any real fuel savings for the country, and many car buyers simply do not have the financial resources or home equity to make serious purchases due to economic uncertainty.
    • India has requested more oil per day to serve the needs of it’s community of new car owners. They wish to acquire 80 million barrels per day. China too has their needs to access oil and the demand will continue to climb.
    • US representatives are pleading with Saudi Arabia to pump more oil, the reduced supply has contributed to higher than normal prices
    • Oil Fields in South America off hope, but essentially sit in politically unstable territories, and some of these countries are outright hostile to the U.S.
    • Middle Eastern supplies of oil also sit in politically unstable regions and require military stabilization at an awful cost in terms of human capital and huge financial obligations.
    • Deep Water drilling and ANWR are great source for domestic oil, but getting permission to access them is difficult.
    • The Keystone Pipeline that can carry oil from neighboring Canada was denied, but the President could approve it based on conditional agreements for US Corporations to implement Telecommuting policies for employees that allows most of that oil to be stored in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. A carrot and Stick approach may be better than simply saying No.
    • Disposable Income is being sucked out of the US economy at an alarming rate, thus hampering our recovery!

    The reduced demand from a large national Telecommuting Effort would also benefit society and taxpayers by the following:

    • Millions of tons of Tailpipe Emissions would be eliminated from the air and improve air quality in many metropolitan areas. Health related costs from lung related illnesses would be reduced
    • Congested roads would cease to be a burden for those who do have to travel, and a George Washington University study indicates that for every percent reduction in traffic, there is a corresponding savings in additional gasoline consumption.
    • Many commuters can be seen tapping away on their devices or on calls while stuck in traffic, and most commuters drive to work alone which adds to the mess on another level.
    • Excess road surfaces can be renovated easier or not at all, thus saving the Department of Transportation and us taxpayers billions of repair dollars. It is quite possible that the road surfaces can be retrofitted for light rail services in some communities. Unlike Europe, we do not have rail solutions that are dependable.
    • The average telecommuter would gain over 900 hours of personal time which is consumed by annual travel back and forth to work. Commuters too would gain back some time due to better road conditions.
    • The Airline Industry is dependent upon petroleum too, and costs for airfare are skyrocketing.
    • Agriculture equipment uses diesel more than any other fuel type, so reducing car and truck travel can free up more diesel fuel for food production in the US and helps to keep prices down for consumers.

    Technology works, we just have to harness it for the good of the people.

    PS – please ask Al Gore why he did not mention the word Telecommuting in his Inconvenient book. It seems a bit hypocritical that this was omitted. We need to work smarter since we’re running out of easy to get oil and easy to get money.

    Thanks for listening.

    Respectfully ,
    Mike O’Grady
    Sterling Heights Michigan

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