Thursday, August 14, 2008

Less gas less pain

Feelin' the Green!

As in less pollution and more money because I'm buying less gas.

Four of us have been car pooling from Bexar to Comal County for a couple of months now to save money. It works.

It helps that they are all nice folks too.

More Americans keeping cars parked

WASHINGTON — With fuel prices soaring, Americans are dramatically cutting back on driving nationwide, new data from the U.S. Department of Transportation showed Wednesday.
Estimates for June indicate we drove 12.2 billion fewer miles than in June 2007, and that the downward trend that began last November has reached a reduction of 53.2 billion miles compared with the same eight-month period a year earlier.
The falloff exceeds the effects of the gas shortages of the 1970s, when the total decline in driving was 49.3 billion miles.

All states and regions are seeing the current trend. The biggest decrease was in the South Atlantic region, where 5.4 percent fewer miles were driven in June than in the same month last year.
Florida had a decline of 6 percent compared with June 2007.
In the South Gulf region, the drop was 4.4 percent, with mileage in Texas falling 4.2 percent.

The continued reduction in driving through the normally high mileage spring and summer months “is a bit of a surprise,” said Troy Green, spokesman for the American Automobile Association.

Pointing to the nationwide drop of 12.2 billion miles compared with June of a year ago, Green said, “To see such a significant drop in June, when people are typically on vacation, speaks volumes as to how high gasoline prices are affecting many Americans across the country.”
That decrease coincided with the national average price for unleaded gasoline hitting $4 a gallon for the first time on June 8. It peaked in mid-July at $4.11 and was down to $3.78 on Wednesday, according to AAA.

“Clearly, more Americans chose to stay close to home in June than in previous years,” Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said Wednesday.

Travel Industry Association spokeswoman Cathy Keefe said the June driving decline “is not surprising, given the environment that we were in.” But she predicted the recent drop in gas prices to below $4 a gallon in many parts of the country will have travelers on the road again.
“I think people have started to take the increase in gas prices somewhat more in stride,” Keefe said.

The trade association is anticipating only a 1.2 percent decline in all forms of business and leisure travel this year.
Some of the biggest declines in June, compared with a year ago, were in such popular vacation states as Maine, down 7 percent, and Florida, down 6 percent.
Western states with wide-open spaces also were part of the trend — down 7.7 percent in Idaho, 6.9 percent in Utah, 6.8 percent in Washington, 6.7 percent in Nevada, 6.2 percent in Kansas and 6.1 percent in Alaska.

The June driving data, collected by more than 4,000 automatic traffic recorders operated around-the-clock by state highway agencies, were supported by an AARP telephone survey of people age 50 and over in which 67 percent said they've cut back on their driving because of high gas prices.

Four in 10 said they've used public transportation, and walked or ridden a bicycle more frequently since gas prices have risen, according to the AARP poll, released Wednesday.
Elinor Ginzler, AARP's senior vice president for livable communities, said she's concerned that communities don't have adequate sidewalks, bus shelters, bike lanes and public transportation options as more people look for other means to get around.

“More Americans age 50-plus are trying to leave their cars behind but face obstacles as soon as they walk out the door, climb on their bikes or head for the bus,” Ginzler said.
AARP polled 1,006 people nationally between July 9 and July 15. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Gas consumption was down, too. The highway administration said motorists consumed 400 million fewer gallons of gasoline and 318 million fewer gallons of diesel in the first quarter of 2008 than in the same period in 2007.
The driving drop was not all bad, however.
“There is at least one silver lining in what's otherwise fairly painful news, and that is that less driving means less air pollution and fewer global warming emissions,” said Frank O'Donnell of the environmental group Clean Air Watch.

Emissions from cars and trucks, along with power plants, are the top sources of air pollution, he said.

The findings were released as Republican members of the House of Representatives continued their protest in the Capitol, where on Wednesday they again demanded that Democrats come back from recess and vote “up or down” on an energy bill that would end the federal ban on offshore drilling for oil.

“All we want is a vote,” Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., told the House chamber, where the seats are filled with tourists invited to hear a succession of Republican lawmakers.