Did high gas prices hurt the American economy?

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

Did high gas prices hurt the american economy?
Its like a snowball effect.

Not as much as you would think… Look at Europe; it’s humming along nicely with gasoline prices twice as high as they are in the U.S.

What really hurt the economy in the past was not so much gas prices themselves, but interruptions in supply. Instead of working or enjoying their leisure, people had to spend time in lines at gas stations. Think about it this way. Assume the average worker out there makes $20/hour (or about six gallons of gasoline at current prices). So every hour this average worker wastes in the gas line is a $20 loss to him or her in terms of lost income or lost leisure. That, not gas prices, was the true cost of the energy crisis of the 1970s and 1980s…

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