According to 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.”
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.
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.
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% due to the fuel price hikes.