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Think Canada's gas prices are bad? Be happy you're not in Italy

The spike in oil and gas prices is a key theme this U.S. election year, and the White House is considering ways to bring prices down, including a release of oil reserves from strategic stockpiles.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

In Turkey, the average cost of a litre of unleaded gas is $2.65, in Norway $2.55 a litre, and in the UK, where a gas panic drove prices up this week, it is $2.20 a litre.

Granted, many Canadians were grumbling when they found themselves staring at a $1.40 a litre with summer still way in the distance.

But here is a question worth considering: which country has seen the biggest percentage jump in gas pump prices compared to a year ago? In other words, when drivers in so many countries are watching the price of a litre of gas go up, where does Canada rank?

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According to data compiled by the Economist magazine, Canada sits in eighth spot, with a 10 per cent increase in gas pump prices compared to last year. Several Eastern European countries, as well as Ireland and the United States, experienced a bigger jump.

The country where drivers have witnessed the biggest jump of all: "Italians are forking out over 18 per cent more than they did 12 months ago; only the Dutch and the Norwegians now pay more for fuel," according to the Economist magazine. Italian drivers pay about $2.36 a litre, and rising prices have resulted in sticker shock and some outrage.

In the United States, where the price of a gallon of gas is now $3.94 USD, or $1.04 a litre in Canadian currency, the rising price of gasoline has become an election year issue.

Public opinions polls have indicated that a vast majority of Americans – two-thirds, according to Washington Post-ABC poll in March – disapprove of President Barack Obama's handling of gasoline prices.

The last time Canadians witnessed a gas price spike to the levels seen this week was four years ago. According to Statistics Canada data (hat-tip here to my colleague Rob Gilroy), the average monthly price of gas went from $1.175 a litre in April 2008 to $1.366 in July 2008 before dipping down to $1.109 in October.

If only Canadian drivers are so lucky this year.

For a deeper look at the role of speculation in the current gas price rice, be sure to read Shawn McCarthy's article here.

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Update: Since this article was published, several readers have pointed out that comparing Canada to northern European countries - even Italy - is hardly comparing apples to apples. European countries benefit from better public transportation systems, and the distances drivers are expected to drive are by no means as great as here in Canada. These are all fair points.

I should know: I moved back to Canada after living in England for seven years. I relished the idea of pay less at the gas pump. But the distances add up and so do the costs. It sometimes feels as though I was paying less for gas when living in the United Kingdom.

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About the Author
Multimedia Reporter

Affan Chowdhry is the Globe's multimedia reporter specializing in foreign news. Prior to joining the Globe, he worked at the BBC World Service in London creating international news and current affairs programs and online content for a global audience. More

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