Rising Gas Prices Don’t Keep Americans Out of Their Cars

Enviros hoping that rising gas prices would change Americans’ driving behavior have been bitterly disappointed. Although gas prices have reached a national average of $1.80 per gallon, American drivers are buying more gas than ever, and big, gas-guzzling SUVs are flying off showroom floors like never before. Explanations for this phenomenon vary. For one thing, gas prices are not nearly as high, in relative* terms, as they were during the energy crisis of the late 1970s, when demand for fuel-efficient cars and public transportation spiked. For another, the U.S. economy as a whole continues to grow. Experts differ on what price level would cause enough pain to change behavior. Some speculate that the $2 per gallon mark would do it, but gas has exceeded that level in California without denting driving habits. Others say $3 per gallon — which could be reached as soon as Memorial Day — might be the magic number. Still others speculate that even when the world is reduced to a post-apocalyptic hellscape, Americans traveling in lawless gangs will still prize their cars above all else. Wasn’t there a movie about that?