Tuesday, March 4, 2008 | 2:07 a.m.
Federal figures suggest that Americans are beginning to curtail their gasoline consumption as the price for crude oil remains high and the economy remains sluggish.
Figures from the Energy Information Administration, a division of the Energy Department, show that over the past six weeks the nation’s gasoline consumption has dropped by 1.1 percent, on average, compared with the same period last year, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
Although Americans do not typically take drastic measures to curb their gasoline consumption when prices at the pump spike for short periods, the new data suggest they will use less if the prices remain high for long periods especially at a time when Americans also are faced with rising food and energy costs.
What’s more, urban planners told the Journal, Americans are demanding developers build neighborhoods more compact and closer to business centers so that walking and bicycling are transportation options or public transportation is nearby.
One 52-year-old engineer from Indiana told the Journal that he moved out of his rural home and bought one closer to Indianapolis to pare his 47-mile work commute down to 15. He figures he will use about 100 fewer gallons of gasoline per month.
With gas hovering around $3 a gallon, that is a significant savings an amount akin to a whole car payment for some people.
In addition to driving less, Americans also are buying smaller and more fuel-efficient cars, including hybrids, than they were a year ago, the Journal says.
Are these trends more than a passing fancy? We can only hope so. Certainly, those people who have moved to homes closer to their workplaces and those who have purchased smaller vehicles or hybrids have made a permanent commitment to driving less.
Perhaps as people get used to shorter commutes and become accustomed to using public transportation and even their own two feet more, they will find that it is a lifestyle they enjoy and with which they want to stick even if gasoline prices do drop in the future.