Despite High Gas Prices, Americans Keep on Driving

With gasoline prices reaching new highs, analysts would expect Americans to limit consumption by reducing the number of miles driven. But overall growth in the economy means that people have more expendable income to pump into their cars" gas tanks, and as a result Americans are driving more miles than ever.

Gas-guzzling SUVs continue to fly off showroom floors. In fact, the bigger ones are selling better than the more efficient compacts. And groups that monitor Americans’ driving patterns haven’t seen any drop in demand at the pump. To the contrary, it’s at an all-time record high of 8.8 barrels a day, according to the Energy Information Agency.

Indeed, most experts say prices will have to go a lot higher, and stay that way, before Americans trade all those SUVs for fuel-efficient hybrids. “People simply haven’t felt the pain adequately to change their behavior,” says John Tobin, director of the Energy Literacy Project in Evergreen, Colorado.

A survey done by CNW Marketing Research in Brandon, Oregon found that at $1.75 a gallon, no one planned to get a more efficient car, now or in the future. But at significantly higher prices, attitudes did start to change.