Americans Responding to $4 Gasoline

A new study has been released by Access America that reinforces the point that $4 gasoline is beginning to impact the driving habits of most Americans. Below is a copy of the complete press release.


At Four Dollars per Gallon Almost Three Quarters of Americans Report Changing Driving Habits to Cope with Gas Prices

Among those who have changed their driving, the median gas price at which they did so was $3.20 per gallon, a level reached in March 2008

Richmond, Va., June 6, 2008 – A recent national survey commissioned by Access America, a leading travel insurance and assistance provider, asked Americans if they have made changes to their driving habits as a result of rising gas prices.

  • With the price reaching $4.00 per gallon, 74 percent of respondents said they would change their driving habits as a result of rising gas prices.
  • Of those who have already made changes to their driving habits, the pressure price for this group: $3.20 per gallon.

The survey also asked respondents how they are planning to save. The results show that Americans first tend to reduce non-essential driving:

  • 26 percent say that cutting back on travel or recreational driving is the first substantial change they made or will make due to rising gas prices.
  • 21 percent say the first thing they did or will do is to consolidate or reduce errands.

Additionally, fewer Americans first look to alternate forms of transportation such as carpooling (7%), walking or biking when possible (6%), or using public transportation more often (4%). Only 3% say that the first thing they did or will do is buy a more fuel-economic car or a hybrid.

As the price at the pump continues to rise, more and more Americans will be changing their driving habits:

  • At $3.00 per gallon, 35% of Americans had changed their habits.
  • At $3.50 per gallon, it was more than half at 67%.
  • By $5.00 per gallon, 85% of all Americans will have changed their driving habits.

“We know gas prices are a point-of-pain, but this survey puts a specific price pressure-point against the changes being made,” said Mark Cipolletti, vice president for Access America. “With three quarters of the country already making changes, we may see more significant changes to driving habits across the country before summer’s end.”

Those who have already changed their driving habits are particularly prevalent among adults with a household income of less than $50,000 per year (73%), parents of children under 18 (72%), those living in the South (72%) and those saying the country is headed on the wrong track (71%).

Proportions of Americans who first cut back on recreational driving as a response to higher gas prices vary little across age and income groups. However, those aged 55 and older are more likely than younger adults aged 18-54 to mention consolidating or reducing errands (30% vs. 18%). Southerners (12%) and those aged 18-34 (10%) are more likely than others to mention carpooling. Those making less than $25,000 (9%) and Northeasterners (7%) are more likely than others to cite using public transportation as their first response to higher gas prices.

About the Survey

The survey was conducted May 30- June 2, 2008 by IPSOS Public Affairs, an independent global, survey-based research company owned and managed by research professionals. As part of its weekly U.S. Telephone Omnibus Study, IPSOS interviewed 1000 adults ages 18 and older. The margin of error for the entire survey is 3% at a 95% confidence level.

25 thoughts on “Americans Responding to $4 Gasoline”

  1. … and the rest of the world is rolling about laughing!

    I’m sorry but seeing Americans carry on like its TEOTWAWKI when fuel is half the price it is at your local service station is frankly hilarious.

    Americans can pay much more for fuel without the economy breaking, you only need to look at Europe to see that.

    There is so much upside.

  2. gas is still too cheap. why? I may be taking gig about 350 miles from home. the only public transport is a greyhound bus (160$+45-60 minute drive to get to bus terminal). it takes 7-8 hours by bus. additional cost is car rental on other end for basic transportation.

    Car travel takes 5-6 hrs and 80$ gas plus gas for around town. gas would need to be at $8+ per gallon to make it worth taking the bus. which is why I say gas is still to cheap and I get to go home on the weekends.

    yes, I’m changing how I drive on a daily basis but many times a car is the only way to go if you want opportunities and experiences off the beaten (public) track.

  3. Doggydog-

    Believe this: Gasoline consumption in California down 6 percent y-o-y on monthly basis, and it is just starting…want to buy a scooter? You can’t. All out. You want to buy a Prius? You can’t. All out.
    You want a seat on the MTA bus running down Olympic? Forget it.
    The great thing, I bet next year is another five percent down. A 10 percent drop in three years.
    And we are just starting.
    RR used to worry about gasoline shortages, due to refinery limitations. I suspect refineries will be mothballing in two years.
    Peak Deman. It has happened already.
    EIA data? IEA data? Way off from data on gasoline sales taxes, or British Petroleum. Can’t explain it, but suspect the EIA is way out of date in their data collection techniques….
    Tp to anonmymous: Hope it works for you, but rural living may be going by the waysides…urban areas can no longer to afford to subsidize rural lifestyles…

  4. Tp to anonmymous: Hope it works for you, but rural living may be going by the waysides…urban areas can no longer to afford to subsidize rural lifestyles…

    I agree. no cross subsidies for any transportation system, nor any looting of the general tax fund as the mbta has been doing for years.

    I can’t afford to move urban because of the 4x price differential for urban properties, severely degraded quality-of-living conditions, the lack of available supermarkets and lower accessibility of good medical care. My partner has a chronic condition that requires boston teaching hospital level care. I see firsthand the overloaded facilities that cost months for an appointment and hours waiting. And that is for the people with money or insurance. The neighborhood clinics are more overloaded and provide worse care.

    another argument against living urban is that there are more jobs in the 128/495 belt than in urban spaces. all the urban people I know work in the suburbs and those without cars have “restricted economic opportunities” (their words).

    why have many jobs migrated to suburban lands? cheaper real estate. and how will they cope with an expensive energy future?

    sun study

    moving companies urban will not be an option because the real estate cost differential will increase and that differential will help make suburban living more affordable. urban living will always be more expensive, hostile to healthy living and damaging to personal finances.

    the whole topic of real estate pricing as a subsidy for living elsewhere is an interesting topic all by itself. maybe we can talk about it someday.

  5. How apropos, I was just visiting the site to see how to send Robert a link to this article in the morning paper about riding the bus in Seattle.

    It includes a graph of local gasoline sales over the last year or so. There is an downward inflection point in the spring of last year, followed by a suprisingly sharp 25% drop late this winter.

  6. Anon:

    I don’t know about the mbta, but in general, rural highways, electrification, public facilites are all subsidized, as are farmers. Many rural zip codes are emptying out anyway, and w/o subsidies, some say whole parts of the Midwest would revert to great buffalo range.
    But, rural Congressman and Senators do one thing first: get those subsidies. That’s why R-Party “conservatives” become welfare queens at budget time.
    Gasoline may be the stick that breaks the camel’s back of an unsupportable, subsidized living arrangement.
    I live near downtown L.A. In some ways nice, but could be a lot nicer — but we need to spend the money here, cleaning up the L.A. River, building bike paths, improving mass transit etc. I hope you find a really low mpg car or motorcycle, or a nice place to live in town, and I wish you best of luck.
    It is OT, but I agree with you in the decline of medical services.
    As a nation, we are falling behind Great Britian, Japan, Australia any number of other countries by so many measures.

  7. by the way, fascinating link here to China’s production of lithium batteries..listen, there ain’t going to be no shortage of l-batteries…..

  8. Another one rides the bus. And another gets on and another gets on, another one rides the bus. – Weird Al

    The PI story shows why gas isn’t expensive enough – yet. They had a theoretical bus trip that took 1 hr 25 min and cost $2.25. Compared to a car trip that took up to 55 minutes and cost $3.10 in gas. The bus took an extra 30 minutes and saved just $0.85. That is like working for $1.70 an hour. Most people won’t do that. True the cost of the car could be higher when figuring in maintenance and other factors, but it isn’t going to be that much more.

    I have a 15 mile one-way commute. There is a park & ride 5 miles from my house and 1 mile from my office. But my KingofKaty Hybrid (Ford Ranger truck and $10,000 in ExxonMobil stock) is getting 28 MPG on the commute. So I’m spending about $4 per day on gas. The bus costs me $3.00 round trip. Can’t make it pay. If I worked downtown I probably would ride the bus.

  9. The IEA cut its projection of demand growth for ’08 by 20% to 800,000 bpd. Who knows,maybe $10 gasoline could cut that growth projection by half.

  10. In the future, look for a lot of TOD — transit-oriented development. It is too hard to take mass transit if it not near your home, and job. In L.A., a lot is being built up around subways and mass transit stops (though not enough to make much of a dent).
    And distant suburbs and rural areas may empty out.

  11. Kingofkaty ~ “I have a 15 mile one-way commute. There is a park & ride 5 miles from my house and 1 mile from my office.”

    You should be able easily to bicycle the five miles from your house to the P+R, and then walk the one mile to your office.

    Europeans — particularly the Dutch — have been doing that for decades. At most Dutch train stations you will see thousands of parked bikes where their owners parked them after biking to the train station (or P+R) from their homes.

    In the Netherlands it’s not uncommon to see men and woman in their 70’s biking from their apartments or houses to the P+R to catch the train.

  12. You should be able easily to bicycle the five miles from your house to the P+R, and then walk the one mile to your office.

    I am committed to giving it a try at least once this summer. Houston Metro is supposed to have bike racks on all their buses so I can ride. The problem is with all the major freeway construction the roads and traffic are rather treachorous. I could ride the entire 15 miles. It would be 13 miles of easy ride and 2 miles of white knuckle terror. The tough part is getting across 18 lanes of traffic. There are no bike or pedestrian crossings.

  13. ~ “The tough part is getting across 18 lanes of traffic. There are no bike or pedestrian crossings.”

    A definite defect courtesy of the City of Houston planning department wouldn’t you say?

    I live in the upper Midwest, and even here we were foresighted enough to provide bike and pedestrian tunnels under the freeway circling my city.

    I have found that there are often side roads to use when biking that can get you away from much of the road traffic. Biking in traffic has to be learned and is an art. You’ll find you have to be aggressive and make eye contact with the drivers when you need to do something. Drivers like to ignore bicyclists unless you make eye contact with them.

  14. A definite defect courtesy of the City of Houston planning department wouldn’t you say?

    Actually that would be TXDot and Harris County. There really are very good
    bicycle trails
    . If I turn I can see one out my window. The problem is that there are not connecting paths from the park and ride. The freeway construction has lengths of sidewalk taken out. And nobody thought to put a bike/pedestrian tunnel underneath the freeway.

    Metro designed the Park and Rides to get people downtown, NOT to work in the energy corridor. So there are no pedestrian/bike ways out of the Park and Ride. You can get close but not quite.

  15. I am a natural born Merican who pays rent in a pseudo suburb. I keep myself healthy, I ride my bike 5 miles to work and 1 mile to the store year round, in snow. I own no kids, no car payments, hold a necessary blue collar municipal job treating polluted water, and I care about the future because I’m not old.

    Everything costs money, which costs Energy. Energy is life. What do we really need when the barrel is empty? Food(moved with diesel trucks)? Clothing(boated from China)? Shelter(expansive, inedible green lawn, fence + 2car garage)? Water(to shower daily and keep inedible green lawns)? It seems to me that folks are primarily voicing concearn about a fuel tank that hauls us on a crowded road to a desk job trading happy meal toys from China…absurd! ‘The solution to roads is more roads’? The solution to technology is….more technology? I’d like to hear people address our immediate inelastic needs: the process involved in how the truck will get food to the store, how reasonable homes will be built, and how durable goods can be made closer to demand points. Has anybody even considered a hybrid diesel or electric truck? one actually capable of moving stuff? How many pent up, cubicle bound people can we employ to haul freight in their solar powered Toyota Prius’s from California, Mexico, Ohio to sustain everybody’s suburban metabolic needs? What if we instead drove earth killing hummers, which require less energy to manufacture, don’t require a new expensive and huge-rare mineral battery in 5 years, employ efficient diesel engines, and carry at least 4x the payload. Hummers and are far too cumbersome and expensive to drive around empty/alone-they’re useable! We’re all connected, pop the bubble! I’m talking to you, think, respond, interact. Thank you

  16. I’m having a hard time figuring out how much of that was sarcasm.
    I think Peterbilt is serious about hybrid diesel/electric trucks. They have 4 hybrid models.
    Their hybrid big rig gets only 5-7% better fuel efficiency while on the road. But while parked the driver can turn off the engine entirely and run the heating, AC and electrical systems off of battery instead of idling a big engine. Walmart’s thought about it enough to buy one.

    About Peterbilt’s medium duty trucks, the 330 hybrid has more torque than the non-hybrid version
    The 330 uses about 30 percent less fuel in an urban driving cycle while the 335 can save a whopping 60 percent when it’s used in a utility configuration.

    It’s more efficient to ship the goods by rail for long distances and just use trucks at either end. The rail industry’s undergoing a boom.

    For shipping across the ocean, there are those funky SkySail ships
    By using the SkySails-System, a ship‘s fuel costs can be reduced by 10- 35% on annual average, depending on wind conditions. Under optimal wind conditions, fuel consumption can temporarily be reduced by up to 50%.

    Technology brings back the old sailing ships and old electric vehicles and improves them.

  17. Hmm.. US Total Gasoline Retail Deliveries

    Clee, I don’t know what this table tracks but it is NOT total US gasoline usage. The numbers are too small by a factor of 7 and the long term trend (e.g. 2008 lower than 1984) is way off.

    Finished Motor Gasoline is the number you want. March 2008 was down from 2007 but Feb was the opposite. The numbers don’t show anything like the 5% and higher declines we keep hearing about from Benny and opinion surveys.

  18. clee, thanks for the info, and yes, much of that was sarcasm, it gets frustrating when petty consumer goods get all the attention and advertising, and we non-experts don’t hear much about how the real business we depend on keeps going on out there.

  19. doggydogworld, thanks. Now that I look at definitions for the table I mentioned, it looks like it shows only the gasoline that the refiners sell directly to the users through refiner-owned gas stations. So Finished Motor Gasoline is the number I want? Is this the right table?
    I’m still seeing a year-over-year drop, (including Feb 2008 being down from Feb 2007) though starting only in December 2007.

    I don’t see anything in the opinion surveys that say that drivers claim to use 5% less gasoline. But then, I’m reading only the press release, not the detailed survey results. As for Benny, I don’t take much stock in his predictions. I don’t see a 6% year-over-year decrease in California, but then, this table includes aviation gasoline.

  20. More pandering from the Democrat Party. Even if some kind of windfall profits tax were to pass, international oil companies wouldn’t end up paying it.

    Most of the massive profits you hear about come from the foreign crude production operations. The US operations of the big 3 include their refining and distribution. That end of the business is losing money right now. Look at a pure refiner like Tesoro (TSO on the NYSE). They lost something like $82 million on revenues of $6 billion in the first quarter.

    To avoid paying the windfall profits tax, companies would spin off their foreign operations into new companies safe from the US taxman or they would NEVER repatriate the foreign profits back to the US. They could headquarter the foreign operations in a tax friendly haven like Dubai, Ireland, or Israel.

    If the tax applied just to the Big 3 (XOM, CVX, COP) American companies, they could simply sell off their US domestic operations to someone else not subject to the tax.

    Or the companies could choose to lavish tax deductible expenses on their employees (I like this plan) should the marginal tax rates rise to a very high level. They could bump up pay, handout more stock options or other fringe benefits, provide free food, “training” at exotic locations, whatever.

    Politicians must know this. Having lived through the last incarnation of “windfall profits” tax, companies are pretty adept at avoiding the tax.

  21. Clee, yes that is the correct table. Declines were about 1% in Jan and March, 2% in Feb. This is a greater decline than the weekly numbers tend to show, but nowhere near as big as the 4.3% VMT decline and 5-6% declines reported by Mastercard.

    The weekly table is less accurate according to Doug but more timely. Last week showed a 4% drop but this week was back to a 1% decline.

    You’re right, the opinion survey didn’t ask people how much they reduced consumption, but the nature of the answers implies the decline is much more than 1%.

  22. Just anecdotal evidence. I started changing my driving habits around when gas reached $3.20 or $3.50/gal. I really don’t remember when. LIke the 21% in the survey, I did so by consolidating and reducing errands. But really, even though I did this, I doubt I saved much gasoline. For many people, the largest number of miles is in their commute, not their errands. The survey and the EIA data measure two different things.

    More anecdotal stuff. I pay for my gasoline with cash. Mastercard would have no data on my gasoline consumption. Maybe the people who don’t use cards are more likely to be the people who can’t reduce their fuel consumption.

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