The Catch-22 Of Gas Prices

<p>If driving less makes prices fall -- will Americans respond by driving more?</p>
May 7, 2008, 12pm PDT | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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"It seems we face a gasoline Catch-22. The only reliable way to cut fuel prices is to cut demand. And the only reliable way to cut demand is to drive less. But if driving less makes prices fall, we'll respond by driving more."

"It's not as if we live in a poor country where, to get anyplace, you have to drive for 16 hours on goat paths. The occasional bridge collapse notwithstanding, we have a magnificent road system that seduces people into driving...on a Sunday afternoon, just for the heck of it.

It takes a lot of price pain to take the pleasure out of driving in this country. (Truckers aside: I know they're hurting.)

Despite gasoline prices at record levels, fuel consumption has fallen less than 1 percent this year. The experts are predicting $4-a-gallon gas, possibly by the end of this month. And I'm predicting we will just motor on.

Everything encourages us to drive: urban planning (or lack thereof), busy lifestyles, even gas-station signs. It's tough to develop sticker shock when you're reminded every quarter-mile how much gas costs by the ubiquitous numbers that advertise it.

It's like a giant conditioning exercise."

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Published on Wednesday, May 7, 2008 in The Columbus Dispatch
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