Gasoline prices keep climbing to record levels, topping $4 a gallon in many parts of the country. It's no wonder Americans take these price hikes personally - we're only 5 percent of world's population, but we use 44 percent of the gasoline.
Here are more high-octane facts:
1. The U.S. gasoline price was the 45th cheapest among 155 countries in a recent survey. Americans pay less than half what people pay in the United Kingdom. But if you want really cheap gas, move to Venezuela, where it's the equivalent of 12 cents a gallon.
2. Two states ban self-serve gasoline: Oregon and New Jersey. But while full-service gas usually is more expensive, Jersey residents get a break because the state's gas taxes are the third-lowest in the U.S. (after Wyoming and Alaska).
3. When lead was added to gasoline in the 1920s, the goal was to eliminate engine knock, but the result fouled the environment for more than half a century. Even the additive's developer, Thomas Midgley, got lead poisoning, yet he and others minimized the danger. More than a dozen production workers died, and one plant was labeled the "House of Butterflies" because the lead caused workers to have insect hallucinations. Production eventually was made safer, but cars spewed lead until the U.S. phased it out in the 1980s.
4. Move over, Robie House. There's a gas station in Cloquet, Minn., designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was supposed to be part of a utopian community called Broadacre City, but the filling station was the only part ever built. The station, outside Duluth, is still operating.
5. The "Molotov cocktail," a bottle filled with a fuel such as gasoline that is set afire and thrown during street fighting, got its name after the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939. As the Soviets dropped cluster bombs, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov described the air operation as a food airlift for starving Finns. That led the Finns to sarcastically refer to the bombs as "Molotov bread baskets." When the Finns fought back against Soviet tanks, they called their gasoline bombs "Molotov cocktails."
6. Singer Bobby Fuller made a hit out of "I Fought the Law" and appeared in a movie with a quintessentially 1960s title, "The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini." In 1966, gasoline killed him. Fuller's body was found in his car, bruised, battered and doused with fuel. At first police said he swallowed gasoline to commit suicide. Later, authorities labeled it an "accidental death due to inhalation of gasoline." But many believe Fuller was murdered.
7. Four years ago, Hillary Clinton got in trouble for a gas-station joke. As she introduced a quote from Mohandas Gandhi during a speech, she quipped, "He ran a gas station down in St. Louis." Indian-Americans were none too pleased with the stereotype, and Clinton apologized for her "lame attempt at humor."
8. Celebrities who are former gas station workers include actors Michael Douglas and Steve Buscemi and singers Bono, Eddie Vedder and John Mayer. "My mission at the Mobil station was to become the best squeegee in the land - it's part of the full service," Mayer said. "I have long arms, and I thought, I'm going to show them art in motion: one full swipe, corner to corner. I never let a single drop of liquid remain. I could also make the pump stop exactly on $15. It's a rhythm thing."
9. "Gasoline Alley," a comic strip born in the Tribune in the late 1910s, is still around, though it is no longer published in the newspaper of its birth. Unlike most strips, its characters aged over the years. A baby named Skeezix, left on a doorstep in 1921, is 87 now.
10. Frank Sinatra referred to his favorite drink, Jack Daniel's whiskey, as "gasoline." And sometimes it works the other way. In some parts of Canada, a gas station is called a "gas bar." In countries that once were part of the British Empire, some people refer to gasoline as "motor spirit." So maybe what the world needs is a 12-step program.
SOURCES: Tribune news services, InStyle, Rolling Stone, cnn.com, Toronto Star, "Fill 'er Up: An Architectural History of America's Gas Stations" by Daniel I. Vieyra, and "The Secret History of Lead," by Jamie Lincoln Kitman in The Nation magazine.