Long-term adjustments

Tim Haab of Environmental Economics notes a data point suggesting people are beginning to make some significant life- and work-style adjustments to cope with higher gas prices. Telecommuting is on the rise, encouraged by bosses.

There’s been a lot of public-opinion research and economic forecasting trying to figure out at what point gas prices would really make people reduce their driving (more from Haab on this point, and some less-learned commentary from me), but it’s difficult to make accurate predictions about things as “sticky” as what kinds of cars commuters driver and where they choose to live in relation to where they choose to work.

Haab:

I’m not sure how long large-scale adjustments take, but I’m sure it is longer than 3 months. My guess is that we are just starting to see the beginnings of adjustments and over the next six months or so, as long as gas hovers around $3/gallon, we’ll see more and more stories like this one

This is something to keep in mind when reading apocalyptic predictions like some of Jim Kunstler’s, for instance, about our inability to adapt:

Mostly, we don’t want to face the tragic misinvestments we’ve made in the infrastructure of happy motoring, and we don’t want to face the inconvenient truth that there really isn’t any combination of alt.fuels that will permit us to keep running all the cars the way we like to run them. Either we keep getting the oil or say goodbye to the American Dream Version 2.K.

The public has now decided that this nation’s primary mission is to find some magic way to keep the cars running on a fuel other than gasoline …

There will be shocks and there will be adjustments and some of them will be hard and some of them will take a long time, and a combination of peak oil (which is coming eventually, whether that’s sooner or later) and climate change will hurt. But we are an adaptable species and we’ll figure some things out. The goal is to make the process as painless as possible, and not to mindlessly dump the problems prosperity has created onto people who haven’t enjoyed any of it.

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