April 12, 2011 — -- While American drivers are spooked by $4-per-gallon gasoline prices in the U.S., they may be shell-shocked on other continents like Europe. In London, gas was $8.17 per gallon in March, and in Istanbul, Turkey the price was $9.63, according to DailyFinance.
Leah McGrath Goodman, author of "The Asylum: The Renegades Who Hijacked the World's Oil Market," said at least two factors contribute to the variance in global gas prices. First, countries that produce their own oil have lower prices. Second, different governments choose to subsidize or tax citizens for purchasing gas.
"Every country is different, obviously," Goodman said. "Some countries have amazing subsidies. In Libya, even with its conflict, its low price has a lot to do with the fact that the government can choose to charge people a lot less."
Here are five national averages around the globe:
1. Japan: $6.77 a gallon
Dewhurst said the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan led not only to an increase in global oil prices but also gas prices in Japan.
"The situation in Japan continues to remain very dire for the energy industry," Dewhurst said. "And Japan is consuming more oil than it has in the past."
In March 2011, the price there rose 7.1 percent from February, according to the International Energy Agency.
2. United States: $3.79 a gallon
The U.S. is in the "middle" range of countries in terms of gas prices, said Goodman. About 15 cents per gallon of gas actually comprise state and federal taxes, which is relatively low according to Charles Dewhurst, national energy practice leader with BDO.
3. Libya: 52 cents a gallon
Dewhurst said Moammar Gadhafi has had a long-standing policy during his 42 year reign of subsidizing the price of oil for its citizens.
"That has been his policy to keep his people reasonably content through gas prices," Dewhurst said.
Dewhurst said the policy is also practiced in other oil-producing countries.
"They subsidize the price so the gasoline sold at the pump is less than equivalent gallon of oil," Dewhurst said. "In those countries, they do it politically -- to satisfy the population so the regimes stay in power."
4. Venezuela: 12 cents a gallon
While many consumers and businesses in the U.S. say high gas prices are hurting the economy, Venezuelans are concerned that gas prices are too low there: 12 cents a gallon, according to the Department of Energy.
Dewhurst said subsidizing gas for citizens has been a consistent policy throughout Hugo Chavez's tenure since he became president in 1999.
Cheap, widely-available gas domestically could reduce the oil available to the country for export, an important source of revenue in Venezuela. But citizens in Venezuela, who already suffer from high inflation, would also suffer because of higher gas prices.
5. Germany: $8.35 a gallon
Gas in Europe most closely resembles premium gas in the U.S., according to Jonathan Cogan, a spokesman at the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Energy Department. In March, unleaded premium in Germany ran $8.35 per gallon, said the International Energy Agency. At the time, regular unleaded gas was $3.56 a gallon in the U.S.
While European citizens have grown accustomed to high gas prices, Goodman said, American citizens may be more vulnerable to high prices because public transportation is less widespread here.
"Europe in general is completely set up for public transportation," Goodman said. "I've lived in Dubai and London and their reliance on cars is not like anything like it is in the U.S."