Americans Anticipating $4 Gas

January 30, 2008
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The overwhelming majority of Americans anticipate prices at the pump will hit $4 a gallon by summer, while a sizable minority believe the number could go even higher this year, according to a newly-released study by the Civil Society Institute.

“Americans fear the worst,” said Pam Solo, president of the non-profit, non-partisan organization, which has been pushing federal lawmakers to raise fuel economy standards to 40 mpg (versus the recently-enacted increase to 35 miles per gallon).

Rising fuel prices were the “most often-cited economic worry,” outscoring threats of a recession, rising joblessness, inflation worries and home foreclosures, noted Graham Hueber, a senior researcher with the independent Research Opinion Corp., which handled the poll of 1001 Americans, conducted earlier this month.

Approximately eight out of 10 of those surveyed feel the government isn’t doing nearly enough to deal with the energy crisis, while a solid majority feel that oil companies are “gouging” consumers at the pump, said Hueber.

Another 80 percent would support a new windfall tax on energy industry profits – as long as the proceeds are funneled into research that would result in improved energy efficiency and reduced oil imports.

Faced with rising fuel prices and stagnant wages, Americans are struggling to find ways to cope. Roughly half say they’ve cut back on driving, though others say they have little opportunity to reduce their mileage, largely because of the distance they have to commute. Nearly six in ten expect to cut back on personal spending to make up for the added cost of fuel.

The higher fuel prices go, the more likely Americans are to switch to hybrids, diesels or some other form of high-mileage vehicle: 37 percent at $4 a gallon, 44 percent when the price goes even higher.

Though the survey found that Americans are tired of seeing politicians “tinkering at the margins,” CSI President Solo acknowledged there’s been surprisingly little discussion of the energy crisis during the current presidential campaign season. “It hasn’t bubbled up into the national discourse and debate, so far,” she lamented, adding her hope that as the general election approaches, it will become a major topic of discussion.

The CSI has conducted a series of studies on public reaction to fuel prices. Last May, nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they expected fuel prices to hit $3.50 by the summer of 2007, while a quarter of the respondents anticipated $4 gas. They may have been overly pessimistic, but a series of other surveys, conducted in recent weeks, find even the experts looking at the likelihood that $4 will be the average price before the end of 2008.

Auto Operating Costs Hit New Record. Some '08 models will cost more than $1 a mile. by TCC Team (12/6/2007)

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