Changes?

We drove less last year than in 2006- it was the first time in 20 years that we drove less. Granted, we only drove .4% less, and we still drove 3 trillion miles. 3 trillion! But hey, the budget deficit is still 9 trillion dollars, so at least it’s not the biggest Crazy Staggeringly Huge Statistic That Worries Me.

So it looks like fuel prices are changing the ways America behaves, right? Slowly, but it’s happening. BusinessWeek reported a couple weeks ago that consumers are buying more efficent cars (especially the cheaper ones), SUV and big truck sales are dropping, and we’re taking more public transportation. But they ask a pretty good question- if prices for fuel go down, will we stop being efficient and go back to our old ways? That’s exactly what happened after the last energy crisis in the 70s. For those of us who do the energy efficiency thing for reasons other than cost, no. But how many of the people economizing are doing it because they have to, and are just waiting for $2.50 gas to come back so they can buy that Escalade? (Are Escalades still cool?) Or is this a national shift- will the green wave make it past the breakers of the economic crisis and drift lazily onto the sunny shores of a new consumer paradigm?

Also, if consumers are buying more efficient cars and not buying trucks and SUVs so much, why are car companies still saying they have “no idea” if consumers even want more efficient cars? And more importantly, why does BusinessWeek publish articles wherein car company executives whine about the CAFE standards and this supposed lack of consumer interest, with no attempt at investigation of consumer interests (or even perusal of their own archives)? That article has some interesting analysis of how the car companies are dealing with CAFE, actually, but man, it irks me that auto executives use that tired “nobody wants efficient cars” refrain.

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3 Responses to “Changes?”


  1. 1 Cameron April 1, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    sigh…..being from California, we have be forced to be conscious of two things, water, and energy (both do to crisies)! Durring a 9 year drought that spanded most of my childhood, there were t.v. commercials that said “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”….NO JOKE!! And with energy coasts and rolling black-out threats stearing the West into the 21st century, many Californians have peremenatly ingrained turning off unnecissary lights, and auto shut off everything! I do have to say it proabalby required YEARS of crises and a massive public campaign to change our once wastful ways; but I can honestly say it’s changed a whole generation. I have Cali friends living on the east coast that are still VERY aware of water and energy waste. Maybe this trend will set-in with oil. The hope then is that oil pricesses never drop (let the death threats start flowing to my inbox now)!

    One good sign is that if I buy a hybrid or fuel efficient car, Im not going to immediatly turn it in for a Cadillac or Hummer. So there is some trickle forward effects of these crsises that may keep gas consumption down even in the good times! The problem is, Congress wants to get these priceses down now, and is even threatening Big Oil to get it done now: http://money.cnn.com/2008/04/01/news/companies/oil_hearing/index.htm?cnn=yes

    On that note, I find it interesting that the US has looked into many other forms of oil for decades but abandoned them because the price to produce was greater then the “then” price of a barel of oil ($25)

    http://edition.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/04/01/algae.oil/?imw=Y&iref=mpstoryemail

    Oh and look at this too…it’s just kinda cool!!

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/27/all-energy-roads-lead-to-the-sun/

  2. 2 Cameron April 1, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    sorry for not spell checking before I posted….use phonics and you should be able to sound it out!

  3. 3 virescent April 2, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks for the links!

    Ok, the gas prices deal seems almost insoluable. Oil’s holding above 100 for now, and due to a lot of polticial factors it probably won’t be headed down anytime soon. And Americans generally haven’t got access to any mode of transport that isn’t their cars, and they can’t all move to someplace car-free immediately- esp here in America. So prices will probably stay up, and people will have to pay them to drive.

    I think every politician for the last 40 years and every city planner for the past 50 years should stand up and apologize to the country for getting us into a tough situation- spreading us out, and tying us to oil. And the current politicians should take deep breathes and try and fix the situation, instead of subsidizing it.


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