Rising gas prices test drivers’ tolerance
Stars and Stripes March 5, 2008
Americans in Europe are willing to deal with a bit more pain at the pump before they seriously curb their driving habits.
But how much is the question.
Faced with near-record gas prices that are only climbing higher, Americans in Europe have a hard time answering the question.
They pay far less for fuel than Europeans do, but they don’t earn in euros or pounds either. Most, though, when asked Tuesday at what price would they change their habits, settled on the same figure: $4 a gallon.
That’s a mark some stateside gas price analysts predict could be in the cards this summer.
Already, prices are near or in record territory in the U.S. The price of regular unleaded went up more than 20 cents in the past three weeks to $3.162 a gallon — within about a nickel of the record. Diesel jumped nearly 38 cents per gallon to nearly $3.66 a gallon, an all-time record.
Regular unleaded fuel sold at Army and Air Force Exchange Service outlets in Germany this week rose 8.8 cents a gallon to $3.267. Motorists using gas coupons in Italy are paying $3.82 a gallon for unleaded and $4.20 a gallon for diesel — and those prices will remain steady through March.
While those prices are high by historic standards, they aren’t high enough yet to get Orrin Wright out of his car and off German roads.
Wright said he hadn’t seriously considered how much gas would have to cost before cutting back on his driving in any serious way. Most of the driving he does is for work, he said, and that’s necessary. But if prices got to between $4 and $5 a gallon, he might sacrifice some freedom and switch to public transportation.
“I look at what the Germans pay for gas, and I wonder why so many of them are on the road,” Wright said. At last check, German gas prices were somewhere around $7.70 a gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, which tracks world gasoline prices. Wright can’t fathom how they can afford it.
Then there’s Tech. Sgt. Felix Lis, an air transportation technician with the 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, who said he doesn’t pay attention to gas prices except to compare them to prices outside the gate.
“As long as AAFES is cheaper than off base, I’m fine with it,” Lis said. Midgrade fuel at AAFES outlets in the U.K. cost $3.318 this week.
Others are already cutting back.
Sgt. Robert Woodring, a member of Darmstadt, Germany’s 596th Maintenance Company, said he and his wife used to take public transportation all over the place when they lived in the city.
But now they’ve moved out in the “middle of nowhere,” he said, so they have to drive everywhere.
“I’d hate to see it be like $4 a gallon. I’d really start to cut down on my driving,” he said.
But since the 60 miles a day he drives to and from work is necessary, he had a hard time figuring out what extra driving he’d be able to cut out.
Already, “I don’t go out as much to like Mannheim or Wiesbaden on the weekends,” he said. “I usually stay around Darmstadt.”
Sgt. Norbert Sortomme, a member of Darmstadt’s 66th Military Intelligence Group, wasn’t as willing to sacrifice long-distance travel, though he has already sacrificed some freedom.
“Usually every four-day [weekend] I take a trip around Europe,” Sortomme said.
He still drives around to do routine errands in Darmstadt, but when it comes to those trips, “I take the train. The train is actually cheaper, believe it or not,” he said.