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Around the world, pain is felt at the pump

by The Associated Press | June 21, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
File - A Shell chemical park is illuminated in Wesseling, near Cologne, Germany, April 6, 2022. People across the world are confronted with higher fuel prices as the war in Ukraine and lagging output from producing nations drive prices higher. Drivers are looking at the numbers on the gas pump and rethinking their habits and finances, pushing some to walk, bike or use public transport. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)


COLOGNE, Germany (AP) -- At a gas station near the Cologne, Germany, airport, Bernd Mueller watches the digits quickly climb on the pump: 22 euros ($23), 23 euros, 24 euros. The numbers showing how much gasoline he's getting rise, too. But much more slowly. Painfully slowly.

"I'm getting rid of my car this October, November," said Mueller, 80. "I'm retired, and then there's gas and all that. At some point, you've got to scale back."

Across the globe, drivers like Mueller are rethinking their habits and personal finances amid skyrocketing prices for gasoline and diesel, fueled by Russia's war in Ukraine and the global rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. Energy prices are a key driver of inflation that is rising worldwide and making the cost of living more expensive.

A motorcycle taxi driver in Vietnam turns off his ride-hailing app rather than burn precious fuel during rush-hour backups. A French family scales back ambitions for an August vacation. A graphic designer in California factors the gas price into the bill for a night out. A mom in Rome, figuring the cost of driving her son to camp, mentally crosses off a pizza night.

Decisions across the world's economy are as varied as the consumers and countries themselves: Walk more. Dust off that bicycle. Take the subway, the train or the bus. Use a lighter touch on the gas pedal to save fuel. Review that road trip -- is it worth it? Or perhaps even go carless.

For the untold millions who don't have access to adequate public transportation or otherwise can't forgo their car, the solution is to grit their teeth and pay while cutting costs elsewhere.

Nguyen Trong Tuyen, a motorcycle taxi driver working for the Grab online ride-hailing service in Hanoi, Vietnam, said he's been simply switching off the app during rush hour.

"If I get stuck in a traffic jam, the ride fee won't cover the gasoline cost for the trip," he said.

Many drivers have been halting their services like Tuyen, making it difficult for customers to book rides.

In Manila, Ronald Sibeyee used to burn 900 pesos ($16.83) worth of diesel a day to run his jeepney, a colorfully decorated vehicle popular for public transportation in the Philippines that evolved from U.S. military jeeps left behind after World War II. Now, it's as much as 2,200 pesos ($41.40).

"That should have been our income already. Now there's nothing, or whatever is left," he said. His income has fallen about 40 percent due to the fuel price hikes.

Gasoline and diesel prices are a complex equation of the cost of crude oil, taxes, the purchasing power and wealth of individual countries, government subsidies where they exist, and the cut taken by middlemen such as refineries. Oil is priced in dollars, so if a country is an energy importer, the exchange rate plays a role -- the recently weaker euro has helped push up gasoline prices in Europe.

And there's often geopolitical factors, such as the war in Ukraine. Buyers shunning Russian barrels and Western plans to ban the country's oil have jolted energy markets already facing tight supplies from the rapid pandemic rebound.

There's a global oil price -- around $110 a barrel -- but no global pump price due to taxes and other factors. In Hong Kong and Norway, you can pay more than $10 per gallon. In Germany, it can be around $7.50 per gallon, and in France, about $8. While lower fuel taxes mean the U.S. average for a gallon of gas is somewhat cheaper at $5, it's still the first time the price has been that high.

People in poorer countries quickly feel the stress from higher energy prices, but Europeans and Americans also are being squeezed. Americans have less access to public transport, and even Europe's transit networks don't reach everyone, particularly those in the countryside.

Charles Dupont, manager of a clothing store in Essonne region south of Paris, simply has to use his car to commute to work.

"I practice eco-driving, meaning driving slower and avoiding sudden braking," he said.

Others are doing what they can to cut back. Letizia Cecinelli, filling her car at a Rome gas station, said she was biking and trying to reduce car trips "where possible."

"But if I have a kid and I have to take him to camp? I have to do it by cutting out an extra pizza," she said.

Pump prices can be political dynamite. U.S. President Joe Biden has pushed for Saudi Arabia to pump more oil to help bring down gas prices, deciding to travel to the kingdom next month after the Saudi-led OPEC+ alliance decided to boost production. The U.S. and other countries also have released oil from their strategic reserves, which helps but isn't decisive.

  photo  A passenger jeepney driver counts money from his earnings which he will use to refuel his vehicle at a gasoline station in Quezon City, Philippines on Monday, June 20, 2022. Around the world, drivers are looking at numbers on the gas pump and rethinking their habits and finances. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
 
 
  photo  Passenger jeepney driver, Jet Marty dela Cruz, eats lunch inside his vehicle to save fuel instead of heading home as he takes a break at a gasoline station in Quezon City, Philippines on Monday, June 20, 2022. Around the world, drivers are looking at numbers on the gas pump and rethinking their habits and finances. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
 
 
  photo  File - A man walks past a petrol station price board in central Rome, Wednesday, June 15, 2022.People all over the world are confronting higher fuel prices as the war in Ukraine and lagging output from producing nations drive prices higher. Higher pump prices are pushing some to walk, bike or use trains, more or simply travel less. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
 
 
  photo  People enters a public transport train at main train station in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, June 19, 2022. Across the globe, drivers are rethinking their habits and personal finances amid skyrocketing prices for gasoline and diesel, fueled by Russia's war in Ukraine and the global rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. Energy prices are a key driver of inflation that is rising worldwide and making the cost of living more expensive.(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
 
 
  photo  An attendant pumps gas into a motorcycle in Hanoi, Vietnam Sunday, June 19, 2022. Across the globe, drivers are rethinking their habits and personal finances amid skyrocketing prices for gasoline and diesel, fueled by Russia's war in Ukraine and the global rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. Energy prices are a key driver of inflation that is rising worldwide and making the cost of living more expensive.(AP Photo/Hau Dinh)
 
 
  photo  A passenger jeepney driver refuels his vehicle at a gasoline station in Quezon City, Philippines on Monday, June 20, 2022. Around the world, drivers are looking at numbers on the gas pump and rethinking their habits and finances. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
 
 
  photo  People wait for gas pump in Hanoi, Vietnam Sunday, June 19, 2022. Across the globe, drivers are rethinking their habits and personal finances amid skyrocketing prices for gasoline and diesel, fueled by Russia's war in Ukraine and the global rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. Energy prices are a key driver of inflation that is rising worldwide and making the cost of living more expensive.(AP Photo/Hau Dinh)
 
 
  photo  FILE - Cars and trucks queue on the highway A5 in Frankfurt, Germany Nov. 6, 2017. People across the world are confronted with higher fuel prices as the war in Ukraine and lagging output from producing nations drive prices higher. Drivers are looking at the numbers on the gas pump and rethinking their habits and finances, pushing some to walk, bike or use public transport. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)
 
 
  photo  A public transport train drive behind a display with fuel prices at a gas station et in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, June 19, 2022. People across the world are confronted with higher fuel prices as the war in Ukraine and lagging output from producing nations drive prices higher. Drivers are looking at the numbers on the gas pump and rethinking their habits and finances, pushing some to walk, bike or use public transport. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
 
 


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