It turns out the gasoline demand does have some elasticity, even outside of the context of large natural disasters. In California, gasoline is now about 50 cents more expensive than a year ago, and gasoline consumption has dropped 4% over the past year in California. That never happens outside of natural disasters, but it looks like Californians are adjusting to some degree.
That matches the expectation in this Wall Street Journal article. In the United States, gasoline consumption has dropped 1.1% from the previous year, but over the long term consumption is forecast to drop 4% for every 10% increase in gas prices as consumers make decisions about their transportation choices and where they live. Part of the reason gas prices are hitting Americans so hard right now is because of choices we made a decade ago about transportation and housing development, when resources were cheap.
This Grist article has more on the topic, including some mockery of Daniel Yergin (and why isn’t Yergin completely discredited yet?), and a hat tip for those already finding solutions to high gas prices:
Anne Heedt, of Clovis, Calif., has been moving toward a more fuel-efficient lifestyle for the past few years. She owns a Toyota Prius hybrid but takes her bike on errands when weather permits.
“We’re not always going to have the same accessibility to gasoline that we’ve had in past decades, so we do have to start thinking about what we’re going to do over the next 50 years,” said the 31-year-old Ms. Heedt, who used to work at a medical office but is between jobs.
Meanwhile, Terrapass asks Copenhagen Cycleliciousness guy for his expertise in how to get more people on bikes. It’s a multipart interview, but the first installment suggests we can get there by opening more commuter-oriented bike shops in America:
Here in Copenhagen there are bike shops on almost every main street and they sell primarily bikes that you call “commuter bikes” in the States.
Which reminds me that I have a followup from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show about this topic — Amy Walker of Canada’s Momentum Magazine led a panel discussion on City Bikes at the show. I took notes, I’ve talked with Natalie Ramsland and Mike Flanigan, now I just need to organize the notes and post them.
In the meantime, Carlton in the UK asked me to get the word about this meeting on peak oil and cycling policy in Scotland:
Spokes Spring Public Meeting – Climate Change, Peak Oil and Scottish Cycling Policy. Weds 19 March, 7.30 [doors open 6.45 for coffee, stall, mixing]. At Augustine United Church George IV Bridge, Edinburgh.
- David Somervell, Energy and Sustainability Manager, University of Edinburgh – speaking on climate change.
- Dr Mandy Meikle, Depletion Scotland – speaking on energy supply and peak oil.
- Kirsty Lewin, head of the Scottish Government’s Sustainable Transport Team – speaking on government cycling policy in the light of the above challenges.
Fat Boy Biking has his thoughts on how more expensive gasoline is changing the driving habits of Americans.