The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Job Losses Reduce Driving

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted January 4, 2010

American motorists drove fewer miles in 2009, in part due to unemployment. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, Trilby Lundberg, author of the Lundberg Letter, says commuting to work--one of the most important reasons for driving--has been "hit in the guts" by unemployment.

Trilby also estimates that since December 2007, gasoline consumption declined by more than 3 percent, even though retail regular-gasoline prices were 87 cents a gallon lower on average in 2009 than in 2008.

According to the most recent figures, U.S. unemployment stood at 10 percent in November. This figure is much higher than the 4.9 percent unemployment rate recorded two years ago when U.S. motorists set an all-time high for miles driven. The Federal Highway Administration says Americans drove 3.037 trillion miles in 2007.

By contrast, the number of miles driven by U.S. passenger and commercial vehicles during the twelve months between October 2008 and October 2009 reached only 2.930 trillion miles, and data collected during the holidays is not expected to alter this downward trend. As Trilby explains, vacation travelers tend to drive to a certain location for the holidays and park their cars, using less gasoline than daily commuters.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 15.4 million Americans are out of work. Yet, Congress is poised to consider climate legislation that, according to studies, could force another two million Americans out of their jobs, sharply increase energy costs, and reduce the ability of the average American family to pay bills and put food on the table.

Let's hope Congress is cognizant of the economic pain of so many U.S. workers and rejects the ill-conceived climate proposals, including the House-passed Waxman-Markey bill.