Driving Habits Revert as Gas Prices Drop

Gas prices are falling, and drivers are going right back to their gas-guzzling ways.
October 31, 2008, 6am PDT | Nate Berg
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"What is happening in this blue-collar bedroom community of refinery, food processing and casino workers reminds energy analysts of what happened the last time the oil price collapsed. The frugality of the 1970s, when oil was high, eventually gave way to an era when people drove longer distances, lived farther from work and traded in their cars for minivans and then sport utility vehicles."

"'Driving habits die hard, and they can reincarnate quickly,' said Christopher R. Knittel, an economist at the University of California, Davis, who studies gasoline demand. In the late 1980s, he added: 'As soon as gas prices fell, there was no real incentive to drive less anymore. If oil prices continue to fall and the economy recovers, I would expect consumers to return to wanting larger and less fuel-efficient cars.'"

"With auto companies closing factories that produce sport utility vehicles in favor of smaller, gas-efficient cars, it may be hard to veer back to the gas-guzzling days very quickly."

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Published on Wednesday, October 29, 2008 in The New York Times
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