Monday, May 05, 2008

Just How High Will Gas Prices Have to Go
For Americans to Change Driving Habits?

That's a question that's often been asked in the media over the years, amid all the crush of stories about how cheap our gasoline is compared to much of the rest of the world. But when the number at the pump went over $60 for the first time ever when I recently filled the family van, I know I hit a tipping point. Now, with prices growing ever nearer to $4 a gallon, with no end in sight, I can't decide whether to curtail my driving, or storm the White House and Capitol Hill in protest. Instead, I'm thinking about a few small changes I can make around the edges of my life. Which causes me to read features such as this one in Time. Not exactly breakthrough stuff here, but a couple of the ideas might be worth looking into. Please, dear readers, share your ideas with us also. Links are welcome. And by the way: I really appreciated and enjoyed the interesting conversation that continued here while I was gone over the weekend. Thanks, gentle readers, for adding value to this venue even when I couldn't.


At 6:43 PM, Blogger Theresa E. said...

Gas prices are killing me! It's a good thing that during school I leave my car mostly parked and walk everywhere I can. But when I go home for the summer it's not going to work like that. I think I'm going to have to get used to staying home more.

At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So will be getting reports "on the road," from your motorcyle journeys any time soon?

Any tales from the writer's weekend? Did you go to the book discussion?

At 11:45 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Theresa, that just means you can't get into as much trouble this summer as you otherwise might. And you can even get more reading done!

And dear anon, I'm about as likely to take a motorcycle journey as I am to walk to the moon. I think people who ride those things have a couple screws loose. And the ones who do so without a helmet should be commited. My 60ish friend Peter wiped out a few months ago while riding several hundred miles with his friend, with their wives following behind in a car. He's lucky to be alive. Anyway, I like to keep my adventures a little more on the safe side. As for the weekend writing retreat, it actually hasn't happened yet. It's still a couple of weekends away. Details below:

At 7:33 AM, Blogger Jeff Hess said...

Shalom John,

I've been dealing with this question for most of my life (I learned to drive when gas was 35 cents per gallon) and I'm doing what I can: driving a four-cylinder car with a standard transmission and riding my bicycle whenever possible; but what I really need to do is to make my living within a couple of miles of my home.

Last year I drove more than 4,000 miles and burned up nearly 200 gallons of fuel tutoring my students in South Euclid, Beachwood, Orange and Chardon. I provide a valuable service, but there has to be a better way.



At 8:45 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Jeff, I'm wondering if you've ever engaged in a combination bike-bus trip? It seems that most of the RTA buses these days (that's Regional Transit Authority for you non-Cleveland-area readers) are outfitted with bike racks in the front. That would be one hybrid strategy. Another one that I'm beginning to think about: getting a Vespa. I've often drooled over those awesome little pieces of design perfection when they're parked down around Coventry, and each year I feel myself getting closer to going down that route. The new ones are quite expensive, but I would imagine the market for used models is brisk.

At 8:02 AM, Blogger Jeff Hess said...

Shalom John,

I've been having the same thoughts regarding scooters.

Maybe we should plan a trip to Vespa Cleveland?



At 10:01 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I took a spin around that place a few months ago and fell in love with half of the scooters. They just look so damn cool, though with prices to match.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Jeff Hess said...

Shalom John,

But at what, 90 miles per gallon and $4 per gallon gasoline, how long would it take to pay for itself?

Then of course there's the whole retro cool issue.



At 10:40 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Good point. Do they really get 90 miles to the gallon? Wow. That's impressive. And yes, the retro cool thing is an issue, because I'm almost an anti-cool kind of guy. But Vespas are also very Italian, and that certainly fits my profile better. I'll never forget visiting my Italian grandmother some years ago, and having relatives set aside a "motorino," their name for scooters, for me for my entire stay. I drove it everywhere, and there's simply no better way to experience the Italian countryside than that.

At 11:22 PM, Blogger Marc said...

I'm trying to see just how little I can drive. I DO work part0time from home, and my other part-time job is in cycling distance, but all the other stuff is what burns up my gas. SO I'm trying to see how little I can go on.

One tank summer:

At 8:56 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Marc, how nice of you to visit, and I love your One Tank blog. I'll be sure to share the link with readers and to keep checking back for good ideas. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Marc said...

Just out of curiousity, how many folks live in an area where not driving is feasable? I live in an older, (frighteningly) self-contained, suburb outside Detroit. Nearly everything (food, some shopping, recreation and entertainment) are within three miles of my house. There are also sidewalks and quiet streets. The kids don't even have to cross seven streets to get to the library.

At 11:16 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

No, you're quite right. Much of the suburban development of the last quarter century or more has been consciously built with non-density in mind. A shocking number of streets in these places don't even have sidewalks. You can't get much more blatant than that in discouraging non-vehicular movement. But then, the distances in many of these places aren't really conducive to walking or even riding a bike to most places. In many places, that's of course fueled a movement back to cities and inner ring suburbs. But the reality is that for most American families with kids of school age, the outer suburbs and exurbs will be the places of choice. Even high gas prices probably won't put much more than a modest dent in those patterns.


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