Pump panic in the U.S. leaves European motorists unmoved


PARIS - Pumping gasoline into his scooter at the rate of about $3.65 a gallon, Pascal Moullec is having a little trouble feeling sorry for Americans who grumble about the high cost of filling up.

"But it is so much cheaper there," Moullec said with disbelief Wednesday at a service station near the Eiffel Tower. "That's why Americans can drive such big cars. They are so lucky. It's really not fair - everyone should have to pay the same price."

Moullec, who works in a hotel, pays the equivalent of about $80 a month to fuel his scooter and tiny car.

So forgive people in Europe if they don't exactly get it when they read that Americans are alarmed by the prospect of paying $1.75 a gallon this summer, or even $3 a gallon in a few panic-stricken parts of the country.

As expensive as gasoline is on the continent, the highest prices can be found across the English Channel. The average price of a gallon in Northern Ireland is the equivalent of about $4.50, according to the Automobile Association UK. The rest of Britain pays only a few cents less per gallon.

Laurent Caellaud, who filled up the tank of his company van Wednesday in Paris for the equivalent of about $60, expressed only modest concern about the high prices because he believes that Europeans get more government services in exchange for their taxes.

"Here we have more social benefits than in America," Caellaud said. "If we don't pay for it in the gasoline, we'll pay more taxes someplace else."

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