World's cheapest gas: Top 5 countries

| Sept. 12, 2011 | Caracas, Venezuela

Published by Christian Science Monitor

While Americans bemoan the cost of gasoline at the pumps, people in other parts of the world enjoy filling up their tanks cheaply at the expense of subsidies provided by wealthy, oil-rich governments. British insurance firm Staveley Head has released a list of the world’s gas prices. Here are the five places it’s cheapest to fill up.

5. Bahrain – $0.78 per gallon ($0.21 per liter)
Bahrain has relatively little oil compared to its neighbors and is working hard to diversify its economy – unlike many others on the list whose entire economy is dependent on oil reserves. Bahrain has emerged as a banking hub for the Persian Gulf and has expanded into retail and tourism. It even signed a free trade agreement with the United States in 2005, bringing it under the wing of the US and allowing the UN to cite the country as the Arab world’s fastest growing economy. With that news, it’s unlikely that gas prices will stay so low for long.

4. Turkmenistan – $0.72 per gallon ($0.19 per liter)
Car drivers in Turkmenistan are entitled to 120 liters of free gas a month, rendering the $0.19 cost of a liter meaningless. The government has promised subsidies on an array of fuels, lasting until at least 2030. However, resources are relatively low, so it is unclear if things can carry on that long. Russia, Ukraine, and Turkmenistan are in a constant battle for cheaper and cheaper gas in the region.

3. Libya – $0.54 per gallon ($0.14 per liter)
With NATO in the air above Libya and anti-Qaddafi forces still vying for a complete victory, gas prices may not stay low for much longer. Costs in Tripoli, although not nationwide, have risen nearly 300 percent since fighting began, shutting down key oil refineries. Restarting them once the country stabilizes should pull prices back down.

2. Saudi Arabia – $0.48 per gallon ($0.13 per liter)
OPEC recently announced that Saudi Arabia’s proven oil reserves were surpassed only by Venezuela. However, that Latin American nation is much less attractive to big business, leaving the path clear for Saudi Arabia to be the world’s largest exporter of oil. There may be problems, however. A cable released by Wikileaks from Riyadh, written in 2008, revealed that senior Saudi officials expressed worry that the country’s reserves may have been massively overstated – by 40 percent.

1. Venezuela – $0.18 per gallon ($0.047 per liter)
With elections looming next year, President Hugo Chávez knows that raising gas prices would be a risky move politically – his presidency is already threatened by his cancer diagnosis and the opposition’s unification ahead of primaries in February. Last time a government attempted to raise prices in 1989, fatal riots ensued, killing hundreds. Venezuelans are likely to continue paying less for fuel than bottled water in many parts of the country for years to come.