I have felt for years that US oil companies continually manipulate the availability of gasoline to increase profits.  It was most recently apparent in my state when supposedly due to shutdowns at some refineries for “maintenance” coupled with a “shortage” of supply “forced” retailers to dramatically increase the price of gas from an already inflated price of $ 3.699 per gallon to a price of $ 4.299 per gallon.  The interesting thing is that when these same retailers raise the price at the pump you see these increases happen over the course of days, but it takes weeks or months to drop back down.  Also, every gasoline retailer in our city raises and lowers their prices at the same timetable…so, who is really dictating the retail price?  No surprise…it’s the local supplier/refinery that provides shipments of gasoline to your area.  Our state is the number 2 producer of crude oil in the United States, but you see no benefit at the pump.  So whether the following information makes you happy or sad, here is some sampling of gas prices from around the world.

Venezuela: 10 cents a gallon

 That gas price above is not a typo.  Thanks to government subsidies put in place by the late President Hugo Chavez, gas prices have been frozen for nearly 15 years.  The policy made Chavez extremely popular in Venezuela, but could collapse the country’s economy.  The harsh realities of inflation will at last come to affect Venezuelan gas prices, and though the country is a major oil exporter, the high spending rate of the Chavez regime left it strapped for cash.  The price for a gallon of gas in Venezuela is a textbook example of appearances being deceiving.

Saudi Arabia: 45 cents a gallon

 As OPEC’s biggest producer, it should come as no surprise that gas prices in Saudi Arabia are heavily subsidized by the government and are among the cheapest on the planet.  The gas subsidies continue even as Saudi Arabia plans heavy investment in alternative fuels — after all, what’s the point of having oceans of oil to sell if you’re burning it all?

Kuwait: 81 cents a gallon

 Like other Middle Eastern oil producers, Kuwait heavily subsidizes its gas industry, keeping prices low for its citizens.  Kuwait is also investing in alternative energy sources like other OPEC nations, in an effort not only to preserve product for export — oil makes up 95 percent of Kuwaiti exports — but to brace against the costs of a subsidized electric power industry that turns a blind eye to excessive consumption, nonpaying customers and those with illegal connections.

Egypt: $1.14 a gallon

 Egypt may bear the closest watch as far as gas pricing goes in a post-Arab Spring world.  After the fall of Hosni Mubarak, there was much talk of reducing subsidies that had kept prices far below market value in Egypt.  Egypt currently has conditions attached to International Monetary Fund loans that require it to rein in subsidies on gas.  Later this summer an effort begins with a smart card that will ration subsidized fuel consumption: once the limit on the card is reached, Egyptians will have to pay market prices for their fuel.

Iran: $2.15 a gallon

 Gas at just over $2.00 a gallon seems light to Americans these days, but to the average Iranian it’s a big hit.  The fourth-biggest oil producer in the world had already undertaken an effort to reduce subsidies and bring gas prices more in line with the market before U.S. and European Union sanctions took a toll on Iran’s economy.  With its currency value declining sharply over the past couple of years, Iran is attempting to broker new deals with countries willing to import its oil, as well as raising prices to specific users, such as petrochemical companies.

South Carolina: $3.19 a gallon

South Carolina currently has the lowest average gas price of all 50 United States.  The combination of nearby refineries in Alabama that provide a steady supply of oil with South Carolina’s low gasoline taxes keeps the price down, but South Carolinians, hard hit by the economy, are spending a greater percentage of their income on gas than residents of any state other than Mississippi.

Washington, D.C.: $3.71 a gallon

Gas prices in the nation’s capital can be as unpredictable as the mid-Atlantic weather.  What doesn’t change is the advantage on which some stations capitalize: location, location, location.  Oil companies placing gas stations just before drivers enter onto or just after getting off major highways know what they can get away with — and price accordingly.

New York City: $3.79 a gallon

 You may not spend any time driving around New York City this summer, but your cab drivers and bus operators will, and what they pay to fill up their tanks affects what you pay for a ride.  For now, it’s possible to fill up at stations in Brooklyn and New Rochelle for a couple of dimes less than the city average, but heading into Manhattan and the Bronx will cost you over $4 a gallon.

Pakistan: $3.98 a gallon

 According to a Bloomberg study, Pakistanis feel the wallop of their gas prices more than citizens of any other country, spending on average the equivalent of just over a day’s wages for one gallon of gas.  To avoid painful gasoline prices, many Pakistanis opt for vehicles that run on compressed natural gas.  There are nearly 3 million CNG vehicles on the road in Pakistan, the second most in the world after Iran.

Los Angeles: $3.99 a gallon

 Drivers in Los Angeles, the capital of automotive commuting in America, rack up thousands upon thousands of miles every year.  The average gallon of gas is just about to pass the $4 mark in LA, with prices in many neighborhoods having already slipped past that and some even brushing up against the $5-a-gallon barrier.  With summer just beginning, it looks like the residents of the City of Angels won’t have much relief to look forward to at the pump.

San Francisco: $4.06 a gallon

 The famous car chase from the movie “Bullitt” would be an expensive proposition today, with gas averaging just over $4 a gallon in the City by the Bay.  Many gas stations are in the $4.50- to $5-a-gallon range, making for some of the most expensive fuel in the U.S.  The combination of state taxes, production lapses and emissions regulations have created a perfect storm for San Francisco gas prices.

Hawaii: $4.36 a gallon

 Even paradise can’t be perfect.  The cost of bringing goods to the Hawaiian Islands hits residents hard when it comes to gas prices, which are routinely among the most expensive in the United States.  Though prices have trended downward for the past few weeks, no one expects them to fall much further, or for much longer.

Chicago: $4.44 a gallon

 The Second City currently holds the title for the highest gas prices in the United States.  Beyond the higher cost of everything in a major urban area, Environmental Protection Agency regulations require special summer gasoline formulas for much of the Midwest, driving prices even higher.  Chicago’s gas prices are 38 cents higher than this time in 2012, and there’s no relief in sight.  In fact, they might go higher still.

China: $4.74 a gallon

 China is already the second-biggest oil consumer in the world behind the United States, and with an emerging middle class it should only use more in the coming years.  Middle class doesn’t translate to wealthy, however.  In spite of government subsidies to keep gas and diesel relatively low, Chinese citizens still suffer at the pump in proportion to the rest of the world.

Canada: $4.76 a gallon

 As a major oil producer with a large portion of its population regularly driving great distances, you might expect Canadian gas prices to be lower than they are.  The key to understanding Canadian prices lies not only in their low cost in comparison to the world average, but also in considering how the high average salary Canadian citizens earn softens potential pain at the pump.

India: $5 a gallon

 Low wages, a lack of readily available electricity or clean fuels, and ineffective government subsidies make Indian gas prices almost as hard on its citizens as those in any other nation.  Right now, India’s more than 1 billion citizens consume less gas per capita than the rest of the world, but with more jobs coming to the nation, and proposed price increases on the horizon, the “gas deficit” could become a full-blown crisis.

Luxembourg: $6.81 per gallon

 The tiny country of Luxembourg has an area of just under 1,000 square miles, but its rate of burning fuel is nearly as high as countries such as Kuwait and the United States.  Luxembourg also has the highest per-capita income in the world, so its residents can afford to spend the nearly $7 that a gallon of gas costs on average.

United Kingdom: $8.06 per gallon

 For Americans, the United Kingdom has always been the go-to example for how things could always be worse when it comes to the cost of gas.  This is the case now more than ever.  Rising crude oil prices and higher fuel taxes have contributed to a surge in gas prices in the U.K. over the past decade.  Prices aren’t as high as in other European countries, but the increase over time is hurting citizens in the U.K. as much as any other.

Norway: $9.63 per gallon

 Unlike other oil-rich countries around the world, the Norwegian government doesn’t use its oil profits to subsidize insanely cheap gasoline.  That money goes into public services instead — services that include college education for Norway’s citizens.  The investment is paying off with a population that makes enough money to handle the high gas prices with relative ease.

Turkey: $9.89 per gallon

 Wherever you fill up, as long as you’re not in Turkey, it could always be worse.  Even before the onset of recent turmoil in the country, Turkey’s fuel prices were punitive.  The reason?  A good chunk of the population pays no taxes at all, so increasing the fuel tax has become a way for the Turkish government to make up its budget deficit gap.

So, on whichever side of the coin that you fall on, in your locale for the price that you are forced to pay at the pump, take some solace in the fact that it could always be worse…

but it could also be so much better.