Gas prices doubled! Will this cause a long term change in American habits?

In this thread, back in May, when gas was a suddenly seems reasonable 2.00/g, I opined that gas prices would “roughly have to double” in order to see massive changes in American driving habits. Gas prices around here are now 3 and a third and climbing.

So… I’m almost there. I recently quit my job as an unarmed security guard because it wasn’t worth the gas I burned to get a paycheck. My next job, I feel, will have to assessible to MARTA so I can park my car at the train station and save me gas mileage.

I don’t think I am alone in this, and this could be a long term change in my driving habits. This might signal a rather fundamental change in people’s commuting habits in general as well. People might start exploring bicycling and alternative fuels more earnestly… and dare I say it? Public transportation.

Will high gas prices spark conservation, or will us fat, spoiled Americans simply shell out more for gas?

In my humble opinion, we fat, spoiled Americans will become rational about the real price we pay for dependence upon oil when we have absolutely no alternative, our backs are against the wall, we are dragged kicking and screaming out of … mixed metaphors into infinity. We will change when we are forced to change and not one second before.

The problem is, how much conservation can immediately be done?

A lot of the things we talk about aren’t things that can simply be switched over to. I can’t take public transportation for my longest trips, for example, until Maryland and Virginia start laying down more Metrorail lines that actually reach close to the destinations I want, which will take 5 years or more. Even the bus network doesn’t go where I need it at any times that are convenient for me.

Likewise, switching over to more fuel-efficient cars isn’t something the average family can just do at the drop of a hat. Given that the extremely efficient cars tend to be brand new models, families that rely on older models are SOL on this. They may not be able to switch over until they run the hell out of they cars they have.
So, I think for the short term, the average American is just going to suck up the gas price, because they have no alternative. And there will be a lot of pressure to either subsidize gas, or to have real measures of public transportation built.

Public Transportation?


Watch the news over the next week, and you are 100% guaranteed to see a report that say, “[your local transit commision] will be raising fares by $1.5 per ride because of higher gas prices.”

Today it might seem like riding public transit will cost less than driving, but it won’t at the end of the month when the fares go up. The joke is that public transportation is just as dependent on oil as you are. If gas prices go up for you, they are going up for them as well.

How will you re-evaluate your situation when MARTA puts a $5 fuel surcharge on your daily commute? (I have no idea what MARTA currently charges, if neccessary please replace the $5 remark with a similar value that is appropriately outrageous enough to make my point)

The point I’m making is that right now there are no alternatives. You car requires crude oil, just as does the buses and trains. Even electrically driven systems get their power from oil-fired generators. So very soon most utilities will raise their rates to match.

People that don’t already walk or ride their bike aren’t about to start. Not because of lazyness but because they simply can’t. Individual reasons will vary, but the distance and geography generally make it impossible for most people to walk or bike to their jobs (within a reasonable amount of time). Thanks in part to previously low gas prices, and huge federal infrastructure projects, we as a society are entirely dependent on oil. We have a plasticity of demand that will not change for a long time, so in the end our society will simply get used $5/gallon and be happy when it goes down to $4.90/gallon, and this will all start over again when it hits $5.10…

The Minneapolis/St.Paul area is pretty big and I used to think nothing of driving around town on the weekend to shop on the south side, get lunch on the west side, go see a movie on the east side.
Now on weekends I stay around my side of town and don’t venture out much.

My wife and I work about a block from eachother about 10 miles from home.
We used to carpool 1-2 times each week so we could come and go as we please.
Now we carpool 5 days a week. If one of us works late, so does the other.

Always keeping my eyes open for other job opportunities I now look more closely at where the company is located before I apply. A long commute isn’t worth it.

I do expect an increase soon, but it won’t be as high as $5.00 per rider. Mmmmmaybe another quarter, another .50 cents on the outside. I lose time but I come out lots cheaper ahead.

Would it be too personal to ask to see the numbers on why it isn’t worth the gas to drive to work? Even if you work 25 miles away, get 15 mpg and gas cost $3, that’s still just $10/day. Is there such a job that doesn’t pay substantially more than $10/day?

As for the question in the OP, I suspect car pooling is going to be a lot more popular. Car pool with just 1 other person 2 days/ week and that cuts your driving costs by 20%. I do suspect (hope!!!) that we’ll be seeing a lot fewer Winnebagoes on the roads.

Gahhhhh!! 40%

No. They might demand more of technologists who can hopefully sqeeze more out of less. But sacrifice the comforts Jeebus promised them in the Declaration of the Bill of Commandments? Never.

Any sudden change–(not just gas prices)-- seems shocking and totally unacceptable…for about a month. Then it becomes normal, but a bit irritating, and then after half a year you’ve forgotten that things were ever any different.

Look at housing prices–in half of the US, people are gladly paying $500 a month more for their rent or mortagage than they would have paid a year or two ago.
Prices that once were shocking and totally unacceptable are now perfectly normal.
Why should gas be any different?

As usual, people on the lower end of the social ladder get screwed, but everybody else just gets used to it and life goes on.

Good point, but not always true. MARTA, for example, has both buses and trains; the buses run on either deisel or natural gas, and the trains run on electricity, which comes from coal-burning Georgia Power plants (responsible for about half the smog in Georgia, which ends up in the Smoky Mountains).

I was just hearing that August sales of SUV’s were 33% less than the same time last year; maybe some of my fellow Atlantans will start asking themselves, “Do I really need a 6,000 pound vehicle that seats eight people?”

I was working crappy unarmed security gig for 9/hour. After taxes, I expect to clear about $210 a week. It’s a job I grabbed last week when gas was still 2.29/g. But I just started work, so I haven’t got paid yet. My job (depending on traffic) is about 27 miles one-way across town. So I was spending about $30 every three or four days to re-fuel for a check I won’t see for another week. I can work closer to home and save substantially on fuel costs if the job is on MARTA. Since they’re not even giving me full time work on next week’s schedule, I quit.

Actually if ridership increases enough they wouldn’t have to increase prices at all.
They actually might start making money instead of operating at a loss.

now might be a great time to invest in telecommunication.

OK, that’s makes sense. But my $10/day calculation was pretty close, huh? :slight_smile:

Double Gahhhhh! 20% was right (carpool 2 days = don’t drive 1 day),

That is true for hybrids but you can buy a non hybrid car which gets 30mpg or more used, it doesn’t have to be a hybrid.

I don’t see americans changing their ways anytime soon. I remember a 60 minutes that was on a year or so ago talking about how SUVs that get 30mpg were perfectly feasable with todays technology with a few tweaks (aluminum engines, energy absorbing braking, etc) but they weren’t being made because there wasn’t any demand for high mpg SUVs. So we will just bitch and moan and after a few years of high prices we will eventually just start switching to higher MPG cars.

Here I just digged it up

Says De Cicco, “You could take that vehicle and put a better engine in it, an engine that cuts the energy waste that’s going on in today’s engines. You could put a better transmission in it, take weight out of the vehicle, without making it any smaller. If you do that, you could improve that 20-mile-per-gallon vehicle today to 35 miles per gallon.”

No, but $10.00 a day is what I make over my rent budget now that my job has switched to less than 40 hours a week. Losing $10.00 a day would put a serious dent in my (and plenty of others’) ability to eat and have some pleasure after a day of work.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We can’t look to technology to save us. We have the means to solve this problem right now. We need to make our cities transit-fiendly. We need to install rail systems that can be faster and more convienent than busses (who will always be slower than cars). We need to make sure new developments have a transit plan and that needed services (commercial areas, schools, rec areas) are within walkable from the main housing areas. We need to make sure our mostly-already-walkable cities are safe, have decent living spaces and don’t continue to grow in to ghost towns. We need to build a sensible rail network for longer trips and make sure that airports, etc. are hooked up to public transit.

My SUV already gets 28 interstate unless I have a bunch of stuff in it, 30 doesn’t seem unreasonable at all.

Any of you math/econ. type people up there…I have a bus pass provided free from my employer. I think that they pay a flat fee for it, not individual fares. If I ride my bike to/from work, will that have a positive or negative effect on the bottom line for the bus system. There will always be other people getting on and off at the stops I use. I would like to think that I would be helping gas prices/pollution/traffic by biking, but I think that I would actually be ineffective at the first two and worsen the third.

I’ve started telecommuting more. 1 or 2 days of the week. My job as a tech writer rarely requires my actual presence in the office. When I do come in, I ride my motorcycle, rain or shine. I plan to do this until snow hits the ground.

True, but what’s my real savings? Let’s assume my current gas guzzler gets 15 mpg. And I drive enough that I have to fill it up once per week, at $40 a fill, for roughly $160 a month. Changing to a 30mpg car means I’d save about $80.

Last time I bought a used car- less than six months ago- I couldn’t find anything that after repairs just to get it running would realistically cost me less than about $2500. Which means that it’d be two and a half years before even a junkbucket were able to repay the savings I’d make in gas.

I think that gas prices would have to hit double digits per gallon before people began actively buying more fuel efficient cars. The current high prices might cause people who are currently seeking cars to switch to more fuel efficient models, but that will still leave plenty of gas guzzlers out there until they’ve been run into the ground.