A look at gas prices at a Mobil gas station...

A look at gas prices at a Mobil gas station along Route 25 in Smithtown. (Feb. 28, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Oil at $110 a barrel is taking only half as big a bite out of Americans' pocketbooks as it did in 1981, the last time Iranian shipments were disrupted.

The cost of a barrel of crude in the U.S., adjusted for total disposable income, was $107.92 in January of this year, compared with a peak of $213.44 in the same month in 1981, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and the Energy and Commerce Departments.

Oil consumption was 4.8 percent of income in 2010, compared with 9.7 percent in 1981, the data showed.

For all the concern over the fallout from sanctions against Iran and the prospect of gasoline topping $4 or $5 a gallon in this election year, the distress caused by rising oil prices is being mitigated by improved household purchasing power, a strengthening economy and America's growing energy independence.

"The threshold to withstand the run-up in energy prices is higher than most people think," Carl Riccadonna, a senior economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in Manhattan, said in a phone interview last week. "We can tolerate fuel at $4. Job growth is stronger and incomes are looking very decent. The economy is on firmer footing."

Gross domestic product grew at a 3 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2011, the most since 2010, while unemployment held at a three-year low of 8.3 percent in February, raising the likelihood consumers will boost spending.

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