Ponder these two numbers. Travel on all roads and streets fell by 3.7 percent in May, the latest month for which data is available, as compared with same month in 2007. And gas prices have declined for the 11th straight day, dipping below $4 a gallon.
Kinda makes you wonder: If energy prices fall any more, will we get back on the road with our gas-guzzling SUVs and minivans? Or have $150-a-barrel oil changed the way we travel permanently?
Let’s take a closer look at the data. A check of the regional breakdown in the May driving data reveals that certain regions of the country — notably the Midwest — have put the brakes on travel by car. The western part of the country is off by only about 2 percent.
Put differently, not all of use are about to trade in our wheels for a train ticket. (Indeed, some of us can’t.)
A look at daily fuel rates suggests that prices at the pump are about to fall even more. Note the spread between prices paid at the pump and crude oil prices, which tend to move in tandem.
I hope the higher gas prices of the last few months have scared us straight. I hope we’ll embrace alternative energy sources and cut back on our fossil-fuel consuming ways.
But I doubt it will be enough. I think we need sustained fuel prices above $5 a gallon in order to change the way America travels. Otherwise, we’ll just slip back into our old ways.
Next up: fuel price amnesia?