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The Silver Lining?

Is it possible there might be something good about the run up in gas prices?

Soaring gas prices have turned the steady migration by Americans to smaller cars into a stampede.

In what industry analysts are calling a first, about one in five vehicles sold in the United States was a compact or subcompact car during April, based on monthly sales data released Thursday. Almost a decade ago, when sport utility vehicles were at their peak of popularity, only one in every eight vehicles sold was a small car.

The switch to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles has been building in recent years, but has accelerated recently with the advent of $3.50-a-gallon gas. At the same time, sales of pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles have dropped sharply.

In another first, fuel-sipping four-cylinder engines surpassed six-cylinder models in popularity in April.

It would be nice if this would also lead to a demand for the government to increase research into alternative energy sources and to wean us off of imported fossil fuels.

But if history is any indicator, there’s no reason to be optimistic.

When prices drop to a level that most people will accept as “normal”, they’ll go back to buying oversized ego machines.


  1. Doug Johnson

    Hi Tim,

    I was just reading somewhere that $10 per gallon was the magic point where Americans would start seriously considering vehicles with better mileage. I was stunned.

    A federal gas tax holiday would be a huge mistake, IMHO.

    My lovely wife and decided to double our gas mileage when gas got to be about $2.50. We carpool!

    All the best,


  2. Betty

    My car is a 2000, and I am planning to buy the most energy efficient car I can find when I replace it. I agree with you that people will return to their old ways if the price of gas returns to a normal level. Doug, it is shocking to think that gas would have to go to $10 per gallon before people looked for more fuel efficient vehicles. The thought of spending over $150 to fill up my car makes me want to learn to ride a horse!

  3. Jay Bennett

    I think that it’s awesome that people are buying smaller, more efficient cars. I do hope it spurs some development of more efficient vehicles and less reliance on fossil fuels. I do have one quibble with your rant though, your last line about “over-sized ego machines”. I realize that some people buy big trucks and sports cars to make them feel better about themselves. I also know that some people buy larger vehicles because they need them for their job, family, etc. Ever try hauling ladders and plumbing equipment in a Prius? Not practical. What about hauling that vacation trailer or the family and dog to the cottage for summer vacation? We will always have a need for the big automobiles, let”s figure out a way to make them more efficient and less reliant on fossil fuels.

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