If you're fighting back tears every time you fill your gas tank, you're probably thinking of how much less gasoline cost just a few weeks ago, and months ago, and last year. You're remembering that you pumped a tankful of noxious goodness from ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) for around $18 last year. And now it's costing you $30 or more. Ouch.

These comparisons are driving many to explore alternative vehicles, such as the more fuel-efficient Toyota (NYSE:TM) Prius, the Honda (NYSE:HMC) Civic hybrid, the Ford (NYSE:F) Escape hybrid, GM's (NYSE:GM) Chevrolet Silverado hybrid, or the upcoming Nissan (NASDAQ:NSANY) Altima hybrid. The price of gas again becomes a relative matter when one crunches numbers related to buying a more fuel-efficient car. If a new vehicle gives you twice as many miles per gallon, then you might consider your cost of gas cut in half. Presto -- $2.80 becomes $1.40!

But changing cars isn't always the answer. It can cost you a lot more up front to buy a new car, and it can take years to recoup that cost. Most of us are basically stuck when it comes to the cost of gas.

Here's a slightly happier way to look at the situation, though. While our fuel cost has skyrocketed lately, we've still got it good compared with many people elsewhere on Earth. Check out these prices per gallon (as of May 2005, using currency exchange rates from August 2005) from a recent CNN/Money article:

  • Amsterdam, Netherlands: $6.21
  • Stockholm, Sweden: $5.74
  • Paris, France: $5.43
  • Zagreb, Croatia: $4.80
  • Tokyo, Japan: $4.61

Got it? Our situation might be unpleasant, but it could be worse. Even the cost of postage in the United States is a relative bargain. (I spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to look up supporting evidence online, and I failed. If you can share the cost of postage in some other nations -- perhaps the cost of mailing a first-class letter domestically -- please do so on our discussion board.)

Learn more about the price of gas and how you might deal with it:

And if you're looking for some out-of-the-box companies in which to invest -- the kinds that might focus on money-saving alternative energy technologies -- take a free test-drive of our Rule Breakers newsletter.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Much to her distress, her car requires premium gas.