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Transportation Secretary Cries Over Americans Driving Less Miles

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 22 comments

 

Washington DC - High fuel prices seem to be adversely affecting American driving habits, according to a new report by the Federal Highway Administration. The report says Americans drove 30 billion less miles since last November. This is approximately a 1% decline over the same time period in previous years, but this is significant because total mileage usually rises one to two percent a year.

For April 2008 alone, mileage declined 1.8% over the same time last year. Tracked by region, the west - with its traditionally higher gas prices - declined the most with mileage falling by a whopping 2.8%.

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters says the lower miles driven have an adverse affect on the highway system because the government collects less tax on fuel. So driving less miles, which should be a good thing for the freeways, actually is a bad thing because less miles, means less fuel which in turn means less tax collected - clear as mud? We thought so. Currently the federal Highway Trust Fund received 18.4 cents per gallon from gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon from diesel fuel.

"We’re burning less fuel as energy costs change driving patterns, steer people toward more fuel efficient vehicles and encourage more to use transit. Which is exactly why we need a more effective funding source than the gas tax," Secretary Peters said.

Acting Federal Highway Administrator Jim Ray says the move towards greater fuel efficiency is great, but the highway system needs sustainable funding measures in place for the future. Hmmm, sounds like another tax coming up to me.

Gasoline prices in the Los Angeles area currently average around $4.50 a gallon with the most expensive places cresting $5.00+ a gallon.

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  • 0 Hide
    JeanLuc , June 23, 2008 10:51 AM
    What has any of this got to do with technology and computer hardware?
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    lordmetroid , June 23, 2008 1:17 PM
    No no no, don't even mention the possibility of letting fellow peers offer infrastructure to each other on a market basis.

    To government their is merely one solution to all problems, tax id est coerce money out of people as much as one can, remove roughly 70% from the top in administrative costs and build roads no one asked for so it looks like they do something.

    Isn't it time for some progress?
  • 0 Hide
    seatrotter , June 23, 2008 1:24 PM
    Hhmmm... recently, big ISPs' arguement involves internet connectivity being similar to pipes and highways. Maybe this is could be used as a compelling reason to tax the internet. :D 
  • Display all 22 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    aleluja , June 23, 2008 1:33 PM
    @JeanLuc all the computer components, elektronics and other stuff is being transported by trucks or planes. Got it now or should i explain more?

    ---

    Well, gasoline currently costs 6.78$ for galon in Europe's country Lithuania, where i live.
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    Flip Trip , June 23, 2008 1:53 PM
    Dont moan and groan about your feul prices, we pay more then 10 Dollar per gallon here in The Netherlands and in Germany its a litte cheaper, but still around the 10 Dollar mark. And what about our 19% sales tax, etc, etc. But still I love living in Europe. At least we have a good social security system. :D . And ofcourse our dutch Coffeeshops where you dont get coffee ;) .
  • 0 Hide
    aleluja , June 23, 2008 2:03 PM
    Flip, if you meant me, then i can say that i do not moan about prices of fuels. I was just giving an example of prices, so those who live in US woulnd't think that they pay alot.

    And i do know that gasoline prices are like 30% higher in Netherlands than in Lithuania.

    What i would moan about, is PC component prices are up to 30% higher than in those countries not in EU.
  • 0 Hide
    exiled scotsman , June 23, 2008 3:18 PM
    I don't piss and moan about fuel prices here in the US. I actually think its a good thing. People are finally seeing that you reap what you sow. Time to do something smart about it. Anyway, I'm getting quite tired of europeans throwing around their big gas prices. Your gas prices might be $10 per gallon but you have extensive public transportation and friendly bicycle policies. What do we have here in the US? A bunch of bickering morons in congress, mostly ill-informed people in the streets, hardly any public railways, and open, porous boarders that are costing taxpayers $300+ billion a year not to mention the glaring security hole. It might be time to finally jump ship. The US is showing signs of of a hull breach.
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    crockdaddy , June 23, 2008 3:27 PM
    The US does pay a lot however. Take a look at a map of your typical European country. Check population density. Now compare this to the US. You will see the US is not nearly as densely populated. Hence the US people must drive further by default.Next, mass transit. The same lack of population density also makes mass transit not economical throughout most of the US. Unless you happen to live in Chicago, LA, Boston, New York, or Atlanta,there is not likely to be enough concentrated population centers to make for an "efficient mass transit system". Runnig a bus line that only serves 15 people is not an efficient use of resources. I live relatively close to my job and my round trip is 25 miles each day. A great many people live much further away from their job. Now where the US is definitely guilty, is/was our love of all things Truck/SUV. That is rapidly changing of course and I hope this energy "crisis" breeds a generation of dedicated people whom view energy effciency as one of their top concerns.
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    falchard , June 23, 2008 4:02 PM
    Mass Transit in the US can still get a huge kick in the rear. In the City I live in, the mass transit is horrible. Takes hours to go 20 miles. They have it so you have to daisy chain off 6 buses to get where you need to go. A much better solution would be to have a transit hub in each region. Each hub has buses that only service that region, while other buses only go to and from these hubs. This would make the same 20 mile trip above take 30 minutes or less.

    Might be a good time to make the Transit Authority a federal office, and combine it with the Federal Highway Office.
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    LoboBrancoTimido , June 23, 2008 5:28 PM
    exiled scotsmanI'm getting quite tired of europeans throwing around their big gas prices. Your gas prices might be $10 per gallon but you have extensive public transportation and friendly bicycle policies.

    Eh! Not all European have extensive public transportation or even friendly bicycle policies. Don't put us all in the same bag ok! :-)


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    gm0n3y , June 23, 2008 6:24 PM
    The population density issue is kind of crap. I live in Canada, we have higher gas prices than in the US and significantly lower density. Of course where I live (Vancouver) we are focusing on increasing population density and improving mass transit.
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    Mr_Man , June 23, 2008 7:11 PM
    I'm not sure what was up with the "clear as mud" part. It seemed crystal clear to me. I just hope that if there is a new tax introduced, the fuel tax will be lowered.
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    kittle , June 23, 2008 7:57 PM
    Mr_ManI'm not sure what was up with the "clear as mud" part. It seemed crystal clear to me. I just hope that if there is a new tax introduced, the fuel tax will be lowered.

    Highly doubtful that will ever happen.
    They will just stop raising the gas tax and start milking the new funding source
  • 0 Hide
    stevo777 , June 24, 2008 1:27 AM
    @gmOn3y. I'm not really sure if your argument holds water. As you say, you live in Vancouver, which is a city. Most of America is not a city, but is lived in. In Canada, most of the country is not lived in as the population is concentrated in very specific areas, which is not the case in the US. Except for places like the Everglades and a few other areas, the American urban population is quite large. Therefore, mass transit in these extensive urban areas is completely cost innefective. The vast majority of Americans need to drive as even in the suburbs there is way to many interlinking spread out streets to make public transportation truely economical in most circumstances.

    In my view, the rising oil prices is the best thing that ever happened to the planet. As a species, we will finally start getting smart and using alternative sources of energy.
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    gm0n3y , June 24, 2008 6:13 PM
    Stevo, I hear what you're saying, but I think that Canada and the US have a similar makeup as far as % of people in cities / rural areas (although many of Canada's rural areas are REALLY rural, similar to Alaska).

    Either way, I think the best solution is for cities to encourage density. People need to get away from the idea that they have to own a house in the 'burbs. The sprawl needs to stop and people need to more closer to where they work. Cities need to grow up not out. This means people have to travel a much shorter distance to work and it makes transit much more economical / efficient.
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    stevo777 , June 24, 2008 10:46 PM
    Okay, but they'd have to find a way to encourage people to do that as I think most people would balk at having to live in a kind of way like the Japanese (all bunched up). I agree that, that is more efficient, but North Americans I think are very privacy conscious and like a big yard. But, that's just my take on it.

    On the other side, I'm sad that the powers that be seem determined to keep us on the oil for as long as they can. All the major politicians in probably most of the countries are getting lobied left and right and the people's and planets best interest is just an afterthought, at least in my perspective. I'd like to see electric vehicles, where needed, that get their power from energy generated at the source of living. I'm down in Florida and I'm hard pressed to see any kind of solar power on anyone's property. It's such a sin as this state could be exporting clean power. There does seem to be a little bit more urgency to getting solar (and other alt energy) out the door, but it's still way too little in my view.
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    gm0n3y , June 25, 2008 12:22 AM
    Maybe the government should give tax refunds for money spend on energy savings / solar or wind energy production at the home. Unfortunately I live in an area that is not very sunny, however we do have a large amount of hydro power, so that's pretty environmentally friendly.
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    stevo777 , June 26, 2008 12:07 AM
    I definitely agree about the tax amnesty/refund thing with alternatives at the home.

    The thing about Canada is that the cold could be used to power large Sterling engines in that you use the heat differential with the heat below the ground vs above. It's a well proven technology that is under implemented.
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    gm0n3y , June 26, 2008 6:31 PM
    Interesting concept, I've never really thought of that. Depending how large the difference in temperature needs to be, that might work. Looking on wikipedia it seems like it is generally used in the opposite form where the ground would be used to cool an external heat source.
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    stevo777 , June 27, 2008 5:19 AM
    Yes, external heat sources are used quite a bit with that technology. Sterlings can also tape into waste heat, such as that generated by such things as factories etc... Kind of sad that no one is really applying it in my view.

    I was thinking that if you could somehow make a huge array of small and inexpensive plastic ones, where one wouldn't be that powerful, but a whole bunch would add up, a 50 degree differential could actually be a significant factor. One idea would be to create a huge plastic sheet that would have the warm end of the unit underneath to take advantage of a greenhouse effect and have the colder top sticking out. That way, the air or gas would get warmed up at the bottom and then, as relatively warm air rises, travel up to the much cooler surface where it would get cold again and sink. Rocks could be strategically placed below the surface to retain some heat during darkness. If some kind of plastic moulding technology could be devised for it, I think it could be produced at little cost and generate at least enough power to light LED's and take care of one's lighting needs and probably a bit more.
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