Gas is an essential commodity for people from all walks of life. Just the slightest increase may lead to a loud collective groan as it would mean higher fuel costs, which would lead to higher prices of consumer goods, which would mean lower savings and disposable income left in the pockets of individuals.
The price of this product depends on a lot of factors, from the mood and requirements of the oil producing countries in the Middle East, to geopolitical and strategic realities governing the relationship of oil producers and the rest of the world, to even the social and environmental targets of nations that want to discourage the use of gasoline in order to lessen traffic and control pollution levels.
Residents in some countries are not as lucky as others. Here is a list of the top 10 countries with the most expensive gas prices in the world.
10 Belgium - $8.19 per gallon
Belgium is an industrialized country in Western Europe. The country’s average per capita consumption of gasoline is even higher than that of the United States’. The Belgian government also charges a high excise tax rate on fuel consumption. The instability of petroleum prices affects the prices of groceries and other consumer goods. In 2011, when gasoline prices went up by 10 percent, it pulled up the costs of non-energy goods by 2.3 percent as well. Still, the figure of $8.19 per gallon is already an improvement from two years ago when the price was at $8.64 per gallon.
9 Hong Kong - $8.21 per gallon
Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. This special administrative region of China tightly regulates the use of space, which is why a lot of its residential buildings expand vertically in order to minimize the land to be used. The same goes for vehicles in the city. To control its use, the government levies a tax of 78 cents per liter of gas.
8 Portugal - $8.38 per gallon
Portugal charges an eye-popping amount of tax for each gallon of gas, equivalent to 64 percent of the price. This has led some drivers to cross the border to Spain to load up on cheaper gas. The government did that on purpose in order to help protect the environment, even taking into account carbon dioxide emissions and cylinder capacity when taxing vehicles.
7 Greece - $8.39 per gallon
Greece has been reeling because of the global financial crisis. While austerity measures have been put in place, its deficit of around a tenth of its gross domestic product way exceeds the standard set by the European Union of only three percent. One of the casualties of its economic crisis is the country’s oil refinery sector. Iran was a major client before, but it has stopped sending crude oil to Greek refiners because of the latter’s deficiency in payments. Still, the $8.39 per gallon price is a marked improvement from recent years when the price was at $8.95 per gallon.
6 Sweden - $8.40 per gallon
Sweden’s high prices can be attributed to its desire and aim to be free of fossil fuel use by 2020, making it the first nation to be free of oil in the world. Renewable sources are being continuously searched and tapped, and it now accounts for around half of the country’s total energy requirements. Carbon taxes are being levied on fuel use, though special concessions are given to industrial users. No tax, however, is charged on generation of electricity and on renewable sources. The $8.70 per gallon price reflects a significant 30-cent increase from the previous year.
5 France - $8.52 per gallon
Just a couple of years ago, the price per gallon of gas in France was only $7.49. With the government imposing higher taxes from income to consumer items, French citizens have been forced to tighten their belts; in some cases, they have transferred to other countries with lower tax rates. France charges a significant amount for value-added and excise duties.
4 Italy - $8.92 per gallon
While Italy has the third largest economy in the European Union, it is also marked by perceptions of widespread corruption and tax evasion. The informal economy actually makes up as much as 17 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. The country’s public debt stands at over 100 percent of its gross domestic product, while the unemployment rate is at 8.4 percent. To help revive the economy, the government has been undertaking several austerity measures. Gas taxes have also been raised by almost a quarter. The price of gasoline actually went up by as much as $9.01 per gallon before settling this year to $8.92.
3 Netherlands - $8.95 per gallon
How bad has the global financial crisis affected even the most stable countries? Just look at the Netherlands. Before the crisis, its economy grew every year for 26 straight years from 1982. Then, 2008 came and the crisis hit the country. Even though petroleum refining is one of its major industries, gas prices still went up. It got as high as $9.13 per gallon in 2011 before coming back down to $8.95. Economic stimulus programs are now in place and the government has even gone to the extent of nationalizing two banks.
2 Norway - $9.97 per gallon
Norway is one of the largest exporters of oil in the world, ranking seventh among all countries. The industry plays a large role in the country, accounting for a fifth of its entire economic output. Still, the government is moderating its spending as it anticipates an eventual decline in the production and use of oil and gas. As a result, the country now has more than half a trillion dollars in sovereign wealth, the second largest fund in the world. The money is used to help cover public expenses.
1 Turkey - $9.98 per gallon
Despite its proximity to oil-producing countries in the Middle East, Turkey has one of the highest gas prices in the world. It is heavily reliant on imported petroleum, as its economy depends on it for 97 percent of its energy requirement. The government hopes to reduce this as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline comes into full operation. Fiscal reforms instituted in the 2000's are also finally bearing fruit as the country’s economy has stabilized and gross domestic product is going up.