Those provincial Americans. They just aren’t living in the “real world,” driving those gas-guzzling SUVs!
Such was the sentiment from Mike Rutherford, a British automotive columnist featured in the December 8 “Free Speech” segment on the “CBS Evening News.” Yet while Rutherford was correct about pump prices, he left out the key reason Americans are “lucky” to have lower gas prices: they aren’t taxed as heavily for the commodity.
“Sorry, America, but if you believe you’re paying too much for the fuel you put in your automobiles, you’re not living in the real world,” griped Rutherford. Noting that American gasoline is priced “among the lowest on the planet,” he added that “here in England, the average price of a gallon of fuel is almost $8 in your money. And you’re complaining,” he rhetorically added before insisting Americans “don’t know how lucky” they are.
“The problem is not what you’re being charged for your gas, it’s that many vehicles” Americans drive “boast large engines that just drink too much” gasoline, Rutherford lectured, preaching that in Europe, motorists make do with smaller cars with higher fuel mileage.
Yet nowhere his sermon did Rutherford explain exactly why gas prices are so high in England or much of the rest of the world.
“The main factor in price disparities between countries is government policy, according to AirInc, a company that tracks the cost of living in various places around the world,” reported CNNMoney in March 2005. “Many European nations tax gasoline heavily, with taxes making up as much as 75 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline,” a Web feature on CNN.com noted, citing an official with the Associates for International Research, Inc. (AIRINC).
And while Rutherford may scold Americans for favoring SUVs and other cars with low fuel mileage, not all Europeans are happy with high fuel taxes, including Rutherford’s fellow countrymen. A few weeks after Hurricane Katrina shuttered Gulf Coast refineries, Bloomberg news reported on British truck drivers calling for fuel tax cuts in the United Kingdom.
“If we get enough support from the British public, the government will have to take heed,” Welsh trucker Alan Greene told Bloomberg in an interview. “`Nobody in this country in transport is making money at the present moment.”
The anger over the high price of petrol wasn’t confined to the British Isles, either.
“The Hungarian government brought forward a 2006 fuel tax cut, while Poland is lowering fuel excise taxes next week,” the news wire reported on Sept. 12, 2005.