In the past weeks there were many claims from the right that “Obama wants gas prices to hit European levels.” Much of this was based on comments Steven Chu had made to the WSJ before becoming energy secretary (back when he was at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Comments that referred not to the price of oil- but to the taxes placed on gasoline.
Europe, and indeed most of the industrialized world, have chosen to tax gasoline to cover, or really more closely cover, the actual costs associated with fuel use. Not just the costs of building and maintaining roads, but dealing with the environmental, health, and social costs that oil production and use entail. And in so doing they force people to see the costs of their actions, to modify their behaviors, and encourage industries and manufacturers to explore alternatives.
The US on the other hand hides the true costs from the end consumer, instead simply taking the money out of their pockets- either their paycheck withholdings or on tax day. And the end result is the consumer never knows the true costs of their actions, or that they do have the power to change their habits, to encourage companies to change their habits, and ultimately reduce their tax burdens.
And now a study has been released in the UK, in the peer reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology that finds pollution from automobiles in the UK causes 5,000 premature deaths a year (almost triple the number of traffic fatalities there), with airplane pollution causing another 2,000 deaths. ( BBC Article )
So yes, give me European gas prices. America will adapt- to both the price and the realities driving it. We already ultimately pay these prices, and by hiding it from us it keeps us from making the needed changes, and serves the corporations- and not the people.