In early 1981 (when I was a broke college student driving a 74 Pinto) gas prices were just under $3/gallon in today's dollars. So, yeah, $4/gallon gas is expensive, but it's not all *that* expensive. I don't even remember talking much about the price of gas then, and it's all the media seems to understand, today.
What's different, IMHO, is that we all got used to gas being dirt cheap for fifteen years, or so, and we're having a hard time adjusting to that. Don't get me started on the politics of it, but if we can keep the fools and dreamers from completely screwing the pooch, then this, too, shall pass. Relatively.
''Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools,
because they have to say something.'' - Plato