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Old 02-18-2008, 10:29 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Americans get serious about using less gas

Americans get serious about using less gas
By RONALD D. WHITE, Los Angeles Times

February 18, 2008

LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles legal secretary James Eric Freedner got fed up with high gasoline prices.

He put his 2003 Toyota Tacoma truck in the garage and switched to a Honda Nighthawk motorcycle for weekday 6-mile commutes to Beverly Hills. He stopped driving to the beach on weekends and cut back on trips to check on properties he manages. He began grouping errands into one trip each Saturday.

The trade-offs Freedner has made in the last year haven't necessarily made him happy, but they've reduced his gasoline consumption nearly 50 percent. And although he admits to feeling jittery traveling freeways on the Nighthawk, all the changes are permanent, unless gas returns to $2.50 a gallon.

"The price was just eating up what I earned," said Freedner, 57. "This is the best thing I can do to make ends meet."

Americans are getting serious about using less gasoline, confounding some economists who have argued that most people can't reduce their driving much because they have to get to and from work and make those necessary trips such as shopping and chauffeuring their children around.

The truth is more complicated, according to some energy experts: When the price reaches a certain threshold or the driving reaches a peak point of aggravation, people are willing to give up personal space and independence. "There is an awful lot of what might be called discretionary driving," said Edward Leamer, an economist at the University of California, Los Angeles. "Raise the price high enough, and you will see that there is a lot more that people can do."

For some, the next drop in prices won't be enough to send them back to their old driving habits.

"The trend will be toward more lasting conservation and longer-term savings if they are not just reacting to prices and have instead made a decision to change," said Bruce Bullock, executive director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

In California, the nation's biggest fuel market, drivers have been burning less gasoline than they had the year before for six consecutive quarters. From July through September, the most recent data available, Californians used 46.2 million fewer gallons, or 1.1 percent less than in the year-earlier period.

Nationwide, motorists are conserving fuel by taking fewer trips, driving slower and paying premiums for the most fuel-efficient vehicles because of a doubling of gasoline prices since 2003, the Congressional Budget Office said in a recent report.

University of Southern California mathematics professor Kimra Haskell began bicycling to work six months ago.

She had many reasons. Sometimes she felt a shooting pain in her driving leg. She wanted to make a statement about the Iraq war and U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The California lifestyle of driving everywhere for everything -- even to exercise at a gym -- had left her too dependent on her aging 1993 Honda Accord.

The trial run was on a clunky old Schwinn mountain bike. On the return trip of the 26-mile ride, uphill, she was ready to abandon the bike by the side of the road. But she persevered, bought a sleek Italian Bianchi Volpe bicycle and is building up to cycling to work five days a week.

Gasoline prices were only part of the story, said Haskell, 43. "It was mainly the effects on my health, on the time it took out of my life, the stress of dealing with the traffic."

© 2008 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

http://www.startribune.com/business/15752657.html
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I'm wondering which economists were so clueless as to not think much if not most of all that tearing around isn't discretionary???

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Old 02-18-2008, 10:30 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Nice article,

Still wish I had a motorcycle...
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Old 02-18-2008, 10:37 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Lee View Post
...doubling of gasoline prices since 2003...
In Phoenix, the highest gas prices have reached is about $3.09 for regular.
It's currently at $2.87 as an average.

The spring/summer hike will happen soon and I'm expecting it to get up to $4.00 for regular.

The politicians are all a bunch of frogs in a pot of water with the temperature slowly rising. They will be the last to react.

Thanks for posting the article, Frank.

You just gave me a little extra kick in the pants to find funding for my EV project.
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Old 02-18-2008, 10:40 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Wow. That's hard to believe that we are using less gasoline. I wonder if the mileage driven a year is going up even though usage is going down?

My neighbor traded in their SUV's for 2 KIAs but say they drive more now. Several folks I know bought commuter cars to drive instead of their trucks. Either way it a nice trend.

Good find
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Old 02-18-2008, 10:46 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Don't know if it's true anywhere else but Cali, and -1% doesn't make me wanna go make a victory lap of America, but it's a start.
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Old 02-18-2008, 11:11 PM   #6 (permalink)
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A lot of people I know are wanting to get a smaller car because gas is eating away at their money. But most people are stuck with car payments and have to wait the normal 3 years or whatever to trade in. So I think attitudes are changing they are just taking time.

Also even a 0% change over last year is significant. It means people are not driving more, these numbers typically increase so things are starting to change.
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Old 02-18-2008, 11:15 PM   #7 (permalink)
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It's cool California is slowly using less gas, but we are reaching a point where changes need to be more drastic. People riding bicycles to work is an excellent start!
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Old 02-19-2008, 03:32 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I watched gas over the past 4 days at my gas station....

4 days ago: 2.88
3 Days Ago: 2.92
2 Days ago: 2.99
Today: 3.05

Just thought I'd share...
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Old 02-19-2008, 12:43 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Lee View Post
Don't know if it's true anywhere else but Cali, and -1% doesn't make me wanna go make a victory lap of America, but it's a start.
Agreed, it is a start. And we all know that when something goes big in Cali, it tends to propagate throughout the rest of the states (read: smoking ban).
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Old 02-19-2008, 02:17 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I'm currently in the process of looking for a bike that I can use to ride to and from work and the grocery store on instead of driving. The grocery store is the worst too, I need something to help carry my groceries in, but it's literally less then half a mile away from where I live so I feel bad about taking my car. Work is too far away to walk to as it would take me over an hour and with my class schedule and the time of day which I get off, being on the street for an hour is not only unsafe but I just don't have that much time to spend commuting to work. With a bike, I can get a rear basket to carry my groceries in and it has a place for me to strap my book bag down to so going to work will be much more efficient and comfortable then if I had to have it on my back.

Taking just those two things out of my driving will remove almost all of my driving since the only driving I do besides that is to my parents house maybe once every other week and to a friend's house ever week or two who lives about 25 miles from my place. If I just rode to work and the grocery store, I could probably stretch a tank of gas to last me almost two months...talk about efficient. I'll be changing my oil more then filling my tank.

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