Climate & Energy

Gasoline demand explained

Why it took us so long to internalize the rise in gas prices

With gas at $3.50 a gallon in April, the U.S. mainstream media is replete with stories of drivers abandoning SUVs, hopping on mass transit, and otherwise cutting back on gasoline. Yet a year or two ago, when pump prices were approaching and even passing the $3.00 "barrier," the media mantra was that demand for gasoline was so inelastic that high prices were barely making a dent in usage. Which story is correct? I lean toward the more "elastic" view, and here I'd like to share some of the data that inform my belief. I've been tracking official monthly data on U.S. gasoline consumption for the past five years and compiling the numbers in this spreadsheet. You'll find that it parses the data in several different ways: year-on-year monthly comparisons (e.g., March 2008 vs. March 2007), three-month moving averages that smooth out most of the random variations in reporting, and full-year comparisons that allow a bird's-eye view. Here's what I see in the data:

Voters' Voices: West Virginia

Talking with voters in the Mountain State

This is the first in a series of dispatches from Melinda Henneberger, who's talking to voters around the U.S. about their views on the environment and the election. Photo: Wignut Huntington, W.Va. -- Door-knocking for Barack Obama in a state where he expects to get stomped today has been kind of thankless for Pam Wonnell, a nurse and old friend of mine who moved here from Illinois last year for her husband's job in coal mining: "I am not feeling the love" while phone canvassing or standing on front porches watching the people inside pretend not to be home. "But I'm not quitting, 'cause I'm a fighter, like Hillary," she says, and laughs at her own joke. "Isn't that Hillary-ous?" Canvassing with her in her hilly, aerobically "butt-busting" neighborhood on the eve of the Democratic primary, though, one surprise is the can't-wait-for-November enthusiasm for Obama among ... Republicans? Hmm. Another is that even -- or perhaps especially -- in this coal-mining state, where billboards along I-64 scream, "Yes, Coal" and "Coal Keeps the Lights On," voters say they want to hear candidates talk more about the environment, not less.

Nukes to me

More on the nuclear portion of McCain’s big climate speech

What’s the deal with John McCain’s nuclear love affair? It’s a question on many people’s minds after the candidate’s big climate speech yesterday. While McCain …

How's that for an incentive?

Drink beer, fight climate change

Many efforts to fight climate change involve some kind of sacrifice. This invention, however, merely requires the drinking of lots and lots of beer. I see it as a game-changer in the debate over the best way to incentivize a solar market.

McCain's answers

A Q&A on John McCain’s climate platform, issued by his campaign

The following is a Q&A on John McCain’s climate platform, released on Monday by the McCain campaign. I’m posting it here because it gets into …

And I would have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!

One thing you frequently hear from nuclear proponents is that nuke plants would pencil out fine if not for all those pesky safety regulations, NIMBYs, …

The renewable energy beneath our wings

Bush DOE says wind can be 20 percent of U.S. power by 2030 — with no breakthroughs

The Bush administration has signed off on a stunning new report [PDF], "20 Percent Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy's Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply." I am working on a big wind article for midweek, but here are the key conclusions of what is easily the most comprehensive and credible report released on wind power in a decade:

What Phoenix, the poster child for environmental ills, is doing right

Can Phoenix remake its desert-gobbling ways?In order for Phoenix to truly be a green city, it would have to be brown. Or not brown, exactly, …

U.S. could get 20 percent of energy from wind by 2030, says DOE

Wind power could meet 20 percent of U.S. energy demand by 2030, according to Energy Department calculations, even though currents currently provide a mere 1 …