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Survey Finds High Energy Prices Beginning to Change US Driver Behavior

A national energy survey of 1,007 US respondents by RBC Capital Markets, released in conjunction with the investment bank’s annual North American Energy Conference being held in New York, found that in response to higher prices at the pump, 76% of those polled said they are driving less, 19% are using or plan to take public transportation more often and 11% have made or are considering carpool arrangements.

Four out of 10 workers said they have considered moving closer to their place of work in order to save on transportation costs, and 82% of respondents said they will consider buying a hybrid when they purchase their next vehicle.

Even Americans with incomes of more than $100,000 are feeling the energy pinch, with 48% saying they are dining out less often and 21% saving less for retirement.

While six out of 10 say they would rather pay more for cleaner fuels, an almost equal number of Americans (58 per cent) say it is more important to keep the money in their wallets.

When asked how their summer vacation plans have been altered, half said they are either staying locally or are not vacationing at all. Almost two-thirds of Americans said they would support a “holiday”, or repeal, of the federal gas tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Of this group, none said they would drive less, and nearly 20% said they would drive more because they could afford to.

Americans’ NIMBY (“Not In My Backyard”) syndrome also appears to be waning. Only 16% of Americans said that they would oppose the construction of any type of energy plant or facility in their hometown, down from 23% in 2007. 71% per cent of Americans said they would support an alternative-energy system in their hometown, including a wind or solar facility, up from 58% last year; 34% would support a clean coal technology plant (up from 27% last year); 32% would support a liquefied natural gas facility (up from 25% last year); and 21% would support a nuclear power plant (up from 17%).

Nevertheless, the survey found that although a majority of Americans attribute the rapid rise in gas prices to a lack of oil refining capacity in the US, eight out of 10 said they oppose the construction of an oil refinery in their hometown.

Americans are feeling the pain of soaring energy prices and it appears they are actually beginning to grasp the severity of our energy dependence. The dilemma has always been that the public want solutions to the country’s energy problems, but not solutions that would overly impinge on their day-to-day lives. That is starting to change and people are taking action.

—Kurt Hallead, Director of Global Energy Research for RBC Capital Markets

Notwithstanding all the changes Americans are making, compared with last year, respondents are far less optimistic about solving the country’s energy woes. When asked if the US will find a solution to its energy problems in your lifetime, 66% of survey respondents said no, up from 42% last year. Even so, eight out of 10 Americans polled said they will consider a candidate’s stand on energy issues in this year’s presidential election, an increase from about five out of 10 in 2004.

Other highlights of the survey include:

  • 93% of Americans agree the US needs to find ways to produce more of its own oil rather than rely so much on foreign oil sources, while 59% said that oil drilling should be allowed in the North Atlantic and Pacific coastal areas or the Arctic.

  • When respondents were asked, “How far would you drive to save 20 cents on a gallon of gas?”,one out of five said they would drive 10 miles or more to save 20 cents per gallon.

  • Six out of 10 of those surveyed said they believe that their personal activities have a meaningful impact on global warming, yet 20% admitted they are not taking any steps to reduce their own carbon footprint.

  • More than half (54 per cent) of survey respondents disagreed with the idea of taxing Americans who drive SUVs or other gas-guzzling vehicles not required to perform their job.

The RBC survey was conducted 17-23 May 2008. GMI (Global Market Insite, Inc.) assisted RBC Capital Markets in the survey. The margin of error was ±2 per cent.



@shane - "you can buy all the prii you wish" -if only this were true. The waiting list for Prius's is over 3 months at most dealers, and will only increase as demand increases. Toyota is producing as many as it can - don't know how soon they can ramp production. There are few credible alternatives out there right now... The promised land seems to be 2009 - 2010, when new hybrid, PHEV, and possibly even some practical BEV models come out of the woodwork...


urr - math error above - savings of "$2 per $80" should be "$4 per $80".

(that's gonna hurt my grade...:)


I have always seen the back breaker for the price of fuel in this country to be $5 per gallon. We as a country live to far away from work and a large group of these people are stuck with older cars that get lousy gas mileage.
As a byproduct of this change in driving habit and lack of disposable income, we will have a difficult recession just because what we are doing is not sustainable at this point.
Then this will be our last chance to get it right and get away from the oil. The price should come back down for a bit until the world economy kicks it into gear again. Hopefully that will buy us the time for PHEV and what ever else is coming.

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