January 25, 2007

ECONOMISTS VS. ECONOMICS:

U.S. motorists cutting back a bit: Americans cut miles driven for the first time since 1980. High prices are behind the change in transportation habits. (Elizabeth Douglass, January 25, 2007, LA Times)

[T]o the surprise of many economists, U.S. motorists changed their ways enough to cut the nation's per-driver mileage by 0.4% in 2005, ending a string of increases dating back to 1980, government data show.

Other reports over the last year on mass transit ridership, total miles driven nationwide, gasoline demand, vehicle sales and retail and restaurant spending reinforce the notion that U.S. drivers made significant -- and in some cases, lasting -- adjustments to offset steadily rising gasoline prices.

"In 2005 and into 2006, we did see consumers start to change their driving behavior," said David Portalatin, director of industry analysis at NPD Group Inc., which tracks consumer spending. "That's a very hard thing to change, because I've either got to change where I work, where I live, or what kind of car I drive in order to actually consume less gasoline."

It's a small but important shift for a nation that many believed was impervious to rising gas prices because drivers were unable or unwilling to rein in their gas-guzzling ways. Lofty energy costs have generated such concern that President Bush devoted a significant chunk of his last two State of the Union speeches to addressing the nation's oil addiction.

"The message is that price matters," said Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a Boston-area consulting company that recently published an analysis called "Gasoline and the American People."


Funny how subjectivity made them doubt the most basic tenet of their profession.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 25, 2007 8:05 AM
Comments

I'll bet almost all that four-tenths of one percent reduction was because more people are working from home at least part of the week.

Posted by: erp at January 25, 2007 11:38 AM
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