It Will Take More Than High Gas Prices To Change Our Habits

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It is a TreeHugger mantra that $10 gas will change everything, and introduce a new era of green building, bike routes and trains everywhere. However according to Elisabeth Rosenthal in the New York Times, that's what they have in Europe and it doesn't appear to have changed much at all. Said one Roman driver: "It hasn't changed my driving at all — not a bit — I just have to work harder."

There are obvious differences, since the average European car gets twice the American average, and probably the commutes are not as long. There are also some changes happening; train trips are up, and SUV sales are down, but people are adjusting.

"We do see reports of a significant change in the types of cars people are buying, but I've been mostly surprised at the lack of a reaction," said Peder Jensen, a transportation expert at the European Union's European Environment Agency in Copenhagen. "One had hoped that these prices would deter driving, but people have coped better than we hoped they would."

Rosenthal concludes that it takes more than gas prices to make things change:

Recent studies have shown that rising fuel prices have to be combined with government intervention to force lasting changes in the transportation choices that people make.

Phil Goodwin, a professor of transportation policy at the University of West England, said research showed that a 10 percent increase in gas prices produced a 6 to 7 percent drop in fuel consumption over five years, because people drive less and switch to cars that are more fuel efficient.

"Price appears to be a highly effective way of influencing behavior," Professor Goodwin said. "However," he added, "price alone doesn't win popular support or acquiescence. There has to be a package of a variety of different policies, including improvements to public transport, walking and cycling." ::New York Times
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