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How Much Green Mileage Do We Get Out of Pain at the Pump?
The price of gasoline in the US has been going up for 41 straight days (more than the traditional summer increase), bringing the national average to $2.62 a gallon, according to the New York Times. That's still pretty far from the $4/gallon average from last summer, but with crude oil doubling since the beginning of the year and the end of the recession somewhere down the line (who knows when), gas prices are bound to get much higher. While that's not good for people's wallets, the question we're asking today is: What are the implications of higher gas prices on the environment?High Gas Prices: Impact on People
There's no doubt about it, no matter if you drive a Prius or a Hummer, higher gas prices are going to increase the cost of operating a motor vehicle. But while the percentage of increase might be the same, the net dollar amount should be more manageable for drivers of fuel-efficient cars.
For example, if your average monthly gas budget is $200 and it doubles to $400, that hurts, but less than if your big SUV monthly gas budget of $600 doubles to $1,200.
This will make walking, biking, public transit and fuel-efficient vehicles more popular (see below), but we can wonder how high gas prices will need to be before there's a real sea change, a real transformation (a revenue-neutral carbon tax could get us there without too much pain, but politiciansare afraid...).
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High Gas Prices: Impact on Auto Industry
Automakers are lucky in a way, because they're getting a second chance to get it right.
When gas prices started climbing a few years ago, with a dramatic spike after hurricane Katrina, the auto industry saw what high gas prices could do. They looked at their stocks of compact cars melt away and waiting lists appears, while their big SUVs could only be sold after ginormous discounts.
Then it all seemed to go away when oil prices dropped, but this is only a temporary respite, and the auto industry should use it to retool, something I wrote about yesterday: Retooling the Auto Industry for a Smaller (Yet Profitable) Future.