High Gas Prices: The Environment's Best Friend

Are you driving less than you used to?

As Dubner blogged last week, Americans logged 11 billion fewer miles on the road in March of this year than they did in March 2007. That contributed to a cut of 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by the U.S. in the first quarter of 2008.

The rise of gasoline prices, coming at a time when most Americans are tightening their belts, has led to a spike in demand for public transit — leading the Philadelphia Inquirer to wonder whether or not the bell is tolling for America’s car culture.

At the very least, the lean economy might make anti-driving incentives, like those in Seattle, more inviting.

Was Levitt right about the benefits of high gas prices after all?

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  1. Griff says:

    Just to cheer you up: I calculate that UK gas prices are the equivalent of $8.63 a US gallon…

    Could be worse ?!

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  2. Mike says:

    Gas is too cheap. Levitt was right!

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  3. William says:

    I have one question. How can congestion be considered an externality if the costs of the congestion fall on those who are involved in driving and not a third party? One could argue the same with accidents, but maybe not those involving individuals not in cars.

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  4. John G says:

    Best friend? – Not exactly.
    If high gas prices are a result of high oil prices, then this situation will only enable oil companies to trash more of the planet looking for black goo. Once oil is found, the increased price of a barrel will allow them extract it from areas such as tar sands and others which were previously un-profitable to work in.

    I hope you’re right about the bell-tolling for car culture, but so far just a better mouse-trap it seems!

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  5. Chriz says:

    This drop of road miles are easy to understand: American people are losing their jobs (read…Housing market), so they don’t have to get to work in the morning and come back at the end of the day. Also, they no longer have a house (read…Housing market), so they don’t have a place to come back after work….. ;)

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  6. Kevin H says:

    Although the public transportation growth is a true plus for efficient use of resources, the US miles by themselves are not anything to be excited about evironmentally. This local trend simply reflects a spreading of fossil fuel consumption across the world (and therefor higher demand everywhere).

    The real meat of the problem is that this world wide economic development is still coupled with a net increase in fossil fuel use, and therefore greenhouse emissions.

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  7. Charles says:

    This isn’t the end of car culture…this could be the begining of making it an exclusive club.

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  8. Bryn says:

    For those of us on transportation boards and in government, now is the time to start asking for money for transit and for bicycle incentives. I’m on a county transportation board, and we’re working on plans to increase bus service and re-build train service in our area. It’s more likely that we’ll get some funding now than we would have even a year ago.

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