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Here's something to think about when you're pumping $1.18-a-gallon gasoline into the tank of the family sedan before taking off for the Labor Day weekend: In other parts of the world a fill-up could cost four or five times as much.

"Gasoline is definitely a bargain in the U.S.," said Peter D. Packer, a spokesman for Runzheimer International, a Rochester, Wis.-based travel consultant company. "Most drivers in this country don't realize how good they have it."

According to the Maryland Division of the American Automobile Association Mid-Atlantic, state motorists will be paying 2 cents to 3 cents a gallon more for gas this weekend than they did last Labor Day.

But prices in the state have dropped nearly 5 cents in the past month, to their lowest level of the summer, according to AAA. The average price of self-serve regular is $1.18; mid-grade, $1.30; premium, $1.37; and diesel, $1.25.

Compare that to the $5.67 a gallon that Japanese motorists pay, according to Runzheimer's second-quarter survey of gasoline prices in 80 countries.

The lowest price is in Caracas, Venezuela, where 12 cents-a-gallon gas stirs memories of the late 1950s -- an era of service station price wars and hot rodders squealing wheels in cars with monster V-8 engines that got 10 miles to the gallon on the open road.

The United States ranked as sixth-least expensive, with an average price for self-serve regular at $1.23 a gallon, just below Mexico, where government price controls set the price at $1.19 to keep it affordable for motorists.

Canada falls near the middle of the countries surveyed with an average price equal to $2.69.

Prices in excess of $4 a gallon prevail in much of Western Europe.

"Americans who travel in other parts of the world return with a real appreciation for the price of gasoline here," said Mr. Packer.

On the opposite end of the scale, no country comes close to matching oil-rich Venezuela. The second lowest price is 61 cents in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Not surprisingly, prices are lower in oil producing countries and higher in countries, such as Japan, that must import their fuel, according to Mr. Packer. He said the high cost of both labor and land in Japan add to the pump price there.

Mr. Packer said the high cost of gas in Canada, more than double the U.S. average, is due to that country's higher tax on motor fuel.

Although U.S. consumers may complain, Mr. Packer insists they shouldn't. "It may not seem like it, but we're still getting gas at a great price," he said.


Most expensive

Tokyo, Japan -- $5.67

Oslo, Norway -- 4.86

Amsterdam, Netherlands -- 4.85

Paris, France -- 4.33

Hong Kong -- 4.31

Zurich, Switzerland -- 4.10

Milan, Italy -- 4.03

Stockholm, Sweden -- 4.00

Least expensive

Caracas, Venezuela -- $.12

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia -- .61

Abu Dhabi, UAR -- .83

Bogota, Columbia -- .88

Mexico City, Mexico -- 1.19

United States -- 1.23

San Jose, Costa Rica -- 1.28

Kuala Lampur, Malaysia -- 1.62

* Average price for least expensive brand-name gasoline available

0$ Source: Runzheimer International

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