Price does matter. So does public perception of likely future prices. As it becomes increasingly clear that high gasoline prices are not a fluke, Americans are adjusting their driving habits.
March 2008 saw “the sharpest yearly drop for any month in FHWA history” of total vehicle miles traveled (aka VMT) according to the Federal Highway Administration’s monthly report on “Traffic Volume Trends.”
[Note to FHWA — you have mis-labeled the report here as a second February 2008 report.]
In March 2008, Americans drove 246 billion milles, compared to 257 billion in March 2007. Indeed, the March 2008 figure is lower than the March 2004 figure. To see just how remarkable that is, look at the annual vehicle-distance traveled data (in billions of miles) since 1983 (this is a moving 12-month total):
I wonder what will happen when gasoline hits $5 a gallon, and then $6, and then $7 in the coming years. Some of that will probably depend on whether we ever see a dip below $3 a gallon again. The longer prices stay high, the more people will start to make permanent adjustments in their driving — and then, ultimately, in where they live and so on. The more they fluctuate, the more people can hold onto the slim hope that they will go down and stay down for a long time, as in the 1990s.
I think we could see one more dip down to $3, specially if there’s a global recession. But it seems hard to see how we can escape much higher prices over the next decade, given how we have refused for so long to adopt an intelligent energy policy. It will probably all come down to how quickly plug-in hybrids can scale up. Recent conversations have convinced me that could happen faster than I thought, but that is the subject of another blog post.
- $12 – $15 gas? Not so fast. But we’ll soon be mad for $6 – $7
- Note to media/Bush: Saudis/OPEC don’t control the price of oil any more!
- Peak-a-boo: Goldman says oil ‘likely’ to hit $150-$200 by 2010. That means $5+ gasoline.
- Note to Bush, media: Opening ANWR cuts gas prices one penny in 2025
- Peak Oil? Bring it on!
- Thirsty oil-rich nations reduce exports
- Why I don’t agree with James Kunstler about peak oil and the “end of suburbia”
- IEA warns of impending oil and gas supply crunch
- My 1996 warnings and predictions: “MidEast Oil Forever?” — Part I: Drifting Toward Disaster