Advice for Oil Addicts
Did consumption patterns change after Katrina?
Even though the sale of SUVs declined during the hurricane, figures still show that more than half of all cars purchased every month are heavy vehicles, as defined by the Department of Transportation. We learned that $3.25 per gallon was not enough to change people's behavior. It will probably have to go up to $4 per gallon before people start changing their consumption patterns.
Are hybrids the solution to cutting oil consumption in cars?
Buying lighter vehicles is one of the easiest and most logical short-term solutions to this problem. Hybrid technology is a long-term solution. There were over 200,000 hybrids sold last year, but that's a drop in the barrel. Remember that there are 230 million registered vehicles in the U.S. Each year, 17 million are replaced, so replacing the entire fleet still takes about 15 years. What's more, we are moving in the wrong direction--56 percent of the new cars last year were heavier than what they were replacing, so the fleet is getting heavier. We have to change behavior. Oil is a wonderful fuel that needs to be respected, not wasted by hauling around excess weight.
How does one do that?
What message does it send when celebrities drive the ostentatious, gigantic cars? People look and say, 'Hey, I want to be like that.' If we could get celebrities to say it's cool to drive smaller cars, it would go a long way. One of the strongest forces in consuming societies is the power of social mores. The perfect example of that type of thinking is smoking. Oil is a wonderful fuel that needs to be respected, not wasted by hauling around excess weight.
Spoken like a true addict. What kind of car do you drive?
I drive a Smart car. They haven't really made it to the United States yet, but they get about 70 miles per gallon. They are very popular in Europe and Canada.