The problem with rpl's writeup above claiming that petrol prices, in US$, have actually been higher in Europe for some time before now is that the value of the Euro has been dropping. Steadily. More or less since it floated against the US$. The Euro started life at around US$1.05 to the Euro and is now hovering at around US$0.86 to the Euro.
What this means, for the overly America-centric around here, is that the real price of petrol to the man on the street in Europe has increased at least 30% since 1998 even if the US$ price of petrol in Europe stays the same.
I do heartily agree with rpl's statement on how gasoline is cheaper by volume than any liquid you can buy in a grocery store. Oil - a non-renewable resource - is cheaper than bottled spring water, a natural resource that regenerates itself from rainwater.
What does this mean? My take is that the price of petrol is still not high enough to warrant research into alternative energy sources. It would take an increase in the price of petrol of the order of at least two or three times from today's already high prices to force a rethink in policy.
But the world is still drunk with short term benefits, high on cheap oil.
In the end, the solution to higher prices is higher prices.