There are so many different aspects to discuss here.
There is a major mentality difference first of all. The car is a symbol in the US in a totally different way than in Europe. The car is freedom; there's a whole mythology (and excellent novels, poetry and songs!) based on roaming the highways, experiencing America and Americana.
Then there's the different views on taxation in general.
Then there's the practical issues connected to infrastructure and availability/scope of public transportation (to counter your personal situation in a rather rural area of Sweden I think, I live in Copenhagen and 350 days of the year I have absolutely no need for a car considering the direct and indirect costs looking at the public transportation available to me and the short distances more easily covered on bike).
For reasons of prices, the car mythology, the distances people have to cover when commuting and the inferior public transportation systems in urban areas, comparatively speaking, Americans simply drive more than Europeans, and they have to too (unless for major investments in public transportation that won't change either).
Then there's the debate on what raising gas prices means; how significant they are, and to whom. In the end, whereas they're a discomfort to us in the west and impeedes on our business sectors, they are much, much worse in poor countries where poor people actually stop putting their children to school because they cannot afford the raising bus tickets caused by higher gasolin prices. In Europe and the US for instance, prices are still comparatively lower looking at GDP and per capita income compared to the oil crises in the 70s plus, importantly, our economies/industries are less reliant on oil than they were. Another factor here is the importance to the booming Chinese and Indina economies where the reliance on oil is still massive.
So... what should we discuss?
Edit: This post was stuck in a time warp. Should have been posted hours ago when there had been no replies.