What’s the right price for gasoline?

As we know, it all depends on where you’re standing at the time. If it’s 1989 and you’re in the United States, $1 a gallon is obscene. If it’s 2010 and you’re in Eritrea, $9 a gallon might seem pretty reasonable.

But in oil-rich Venezuela, anything more than 10 cents a gallon would be considered highway robbery.

Whereas in the United States, we debate whether to increase a federal gasoline tax that hasn’t been raised since 1993, in Venezuela, the argument is whether to eliminate a subsidy for gasoline that costs the government some $9 billion per year.

Detroit’s dinosaurs still roam the streets in Venezuela (photo by esteban via Creative Commons)

A New York Times story today explains how the artificially low prices help keep a motley array of vintage American cars on the road – the proud owner of a ’74 Lincoln Continental calls his car, which only costs about a buck to fill up, “super economical.”

And Venezuelans are no more likely than Americans to take a price increase lightly – the Times points out that higher prices in 1989 prompted riots that killed hundreds of people.

Not that we need to worry about it – a proposal from the president’s deficit commission to increase the tax by 15 cents per gallon won’t be making its way to Congress this year.

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.