Study Finds Americans Drove Less in 2005
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Our business starts with the road less traveled.
Higher gas prices make motorists grumble but they don't change their driving habits. That is until recently. A new study finds that for the first time in a quarter century, Americans actually drove fewer miles last year. NPR's Chris Arnold reports.
CHRIS ARNOLD: You wouldn't know it at rush hour in Boston, where gridlock and hand gestures are still daily events, but Americans drove a bit less last year, about one percent less.
Mr. DANIEL YERGIN (Chairman, Cambridge Energy Research Associates): And the growth in gasoline demand was much less.
ARNOLD: Daniel Yergin is one of the most prominent energy researchers in the world. He's chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, which issued the report. Back a few years ago, gas was pretty cheap and Yergin says Americans' love affair with the automobile was turning into a passion for enormous SUVs.
Even when gas prices started rising, people kept buying them for a while.
Mr. YERGIN: Yeah. There was always that question, at what point do prices start to matter? And it looked like it maybe was going to be $2, but we've discovered that it's really in the $2.50 to 3 range that it really does start to affect people's behaviors, their thinking, and the choices they make.
ARNOLD: Yergin says, in the last two years, it seems like American consumers turned a corner.
Mr. YERGIN: One of the most striking things to me, is the decline over two years, of about 600,000 in the sales of large SUVs, and the switchover to smaller more efficient SUVs.
ARNOLD: Not good news for Detroit, since many of those smaller SUVs are built by foreign automakers.
Chris Arnold, NPR News, Boston.
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