Conventional TreeHugger wisdom suggests that if gas prices go up, then people will drive less and switch to more fuel efficient cars. That's what has happened before, but a new report suggests that it isn't happening now. According to Energy Trap, a study from the New America Foundation, people are indeed trapped, by older gas guzzling cars, long commutes from houses they can't sell or to multiple part-time jobs.
And surprise, it hurts the 99% a lot more than it hurts the 1%. Economist Skip Laitner tells Wendy Koch at USA Today:
"We're locking ourselves in, and it becomes almost a downward spiral," he says, noting that people are paying for gas by cutting other spending. "Significant numbers of people told us they're cutting back on food," says Lisa Margonelli, the foundation's director of energy policy.
Cars, that used to represent freedom, now are moving into the "necessary evil" category. The report makes some sensible recommendations:
The only sure way to reduce the toll of gasoline prices on our economy, and defuse them politically, is to focus on bringing down gasoline demand by giving consumers choices. ... Policies that bring down the total cost of transportation and enable middle class families to feel empowered when prices rise could be winners both economically and politically. In the long run, changing development patterns, introducing new technologies for both fuels and autos, carbon pricing, and policies to make highways self-sustaining will reduce the energy intensity of our infrastructure.
But in the short run, it is just more of a squeeze on the poor and middle classes.