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Friday, April 18, 2008

Northwest Gas Consumption at Lowest Level Since 1966

posted by on April 18 at 13:20 PM

According to a new report by the Sightline Institute, drivers in the Northwest are using less gasoline than at any point since 1966. In fact, per-capita gas consumption has dropped 11 percent in the last eight years, an average of nearly a gallon a week. Put another way, that’s the equivalent of every driver in the Northwest taking five weeks off from driving last year. According to the report, people are driving less, using transit more, buying more fuel-efficient cars, and moving to compact, pedestrian-friendly communities.


But never mind. Obviously, driving is inevitable, people never change their behavior, adaptation is impossible, blah, blah, blah. I mean, why look at the evidence when you’ve already formed an opinion?

RSS icon Comments


Shouldn't you be out judging rich bitches who aren't trying hard enough to save the planet?

11% ain's shit. Fuck em.

Posted by ecce homo | April 18, 2008 1:26 PM

I'd say something, but I'm either too drunk or not quite drunk enough. Not sure which. I know how to solve that, though. Have a great weekend, people!

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 18, 2008 1:31 PM

The total cynic says it's not the "environmental conciousnes" of the pacific northwest. It's the fact that people have been getting sick of wasting their lives in traffic ... with the kicker being the recent gas prices. Quality of life issues.

Posted by OR Matt | April 18, 2008 1:37 PM

So what was the fuel economy of your average car in 1966? I'm guessing it's not close to what it is now. Maybe 15-20 MPG? That means that people are still driving slightly less than double the miles they were.

Posted by Lou | April 18, 2008 1:38 PM

Why look at the evidence when you haven't a glimmer of a clue?

Yes, per-capita usage is down. But total usage is massively, massively up -- we have something like three times as many people now, all driving far more miles.

These numbers also don't support your theory about what makes people change behavior, since that graph doesn't follow any kind of environmental awareness at all. It's kind of steadily down for a decade now. In fact, you could probably map it against a combination of fuel efficiency and price per gallon.

Posted by Fnarf | April 18, 2008 1:41 PM

It's evidence for a shift in the population perhaps, but not necessarily for changes in behavior. Behavior probably does change a bit here and there, probably largely due to peer pressure.

Posted by kinaidos | April 18, 2008 1:53 PM

fnarf raises the most obvious point; is per capita consumption of gas really the best way to measure total environmental impact and gas usage?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 18, 2008 1:57 PM

Its a function of what we drive. Not how much or where from. (And its sure as shit not transit.)

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | April 18, 2008 1:59 PM

@5 -

But total usage is massively, massively up

Did you check out the report? According to the report, no, it's not - it's stayed flat for about the past decade. And actually, it indicates that vehicle use per capita declined in this region over recent years even as it increased elsewhere.

Posted by tsm | April 18, 2008 2:00 PM

and it definitely isn't because ECB rides a bicycle...

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | April 18, 2008 2:01 PM

Fnarf and Bellevue Ave: Not true. Far from being "massively, massively up," overall gas consumption in the northwest has actually plateaued. Total consumption in Oregon and Washington, meanwhile, has slightly declined. That's OVERALL consumption, not per capita. I recommend you read the report before you make such inaccurate blanket statements.

Posted by ECB | April 18, 2008 2:05 PM

interesting graph. i'm not going to read the report, though. maybe later.

Posted by superyeadon | April 18, 2008 2:05 PM

So they have been taking 5 week vacations to Europe using the equivalent of a full year of driving's worth of gas. People that travel by air (ECB, Dan) are using more fuel than people that drive SUVs.

This doesn't measure heating and cooling of buildings or computer use of energy.

Posted by McG | April 18, 2008 2:11 PM

Well, then, I wonder where they're getting this reality. Maybe it IS all in fuel efficiency? Because there is absolutely no possible way in hell that total vehicle miles is steady. The gridlocked state of our roads says otherwise. For instance, I-5 is packed solid even on weekends now, and that certainly wasn't true in 1966, or in 1999. The more-or-less permanent reverse-commute standstill on 520 is also relatively new.

And in outlying parts of the region -- I'm particularly familiar with Snohomish County -- there are thousands of square miles that barely even HAD roads in 1966, or even well into the 90s, that are experiencing massive traffic loads.

Posted by Fnarf | April 18, 2008 2:12 PM

The obvious correlation is that, since gas tax revenues will drop, we should build FEWER highways and use the existing money to REPAIR our existing highways and bridges instead.

And build more transit since demand is increasing quickly. Let's double what we did in the last vote.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 18, 2008 2:15 PM

And we all know that people who fly don't drive SUVs and vice-versa.

But, yeah, I fly way too much. I'd like to fly way, way less. My own personal carbon offsets: Walk to work, take the bus, ride my bike, don't have a driver's license, mooch lifts, now and then, off the boyfriend.

Posted by Dan Savage | April 18, 2008 2:30 PM
Because there is absolutely no possible way in hell that total vehicle miles is steady. The gridlocked state of our roads says otherwise. For instance, I-5 is packed solid even on weekends now, and that certainly wasn't true in 1966, or in 1999.

I don't have time to go on a Googling spree now to prove it, but that could just as easily indicate that traffic has merely become more concentrated, not increased overall. The population density of Seattle has increased significantly over the past decade, for example, so you could well have fewer people making short trips within their neighborhood by car.

Posted by tsm | April 18, 2008 2:30 PM

Dan - having your BF drive you somewhere and drop you off doubles energy consumption if he drives back to get you later.

The air travel and meat eating overwhelm the few gallons of gas your in-city transportation efforts save.

Why should I switch out light bulbs, take the bus, turn the heat down et al. when you and ECB fly all over using up multiples of anything I save?

Posted by McG | April 18, 2008 2:45 PM

I think we should take a second to feel good about what we've accomplished. Even if it isn't totally a result of changing people's behavior the end result is the same: Population has increased but gas consumption has not.

Now we must continue to create more mass transit and encourage ridership, increase fuel efficiency, look for petroleum alternatives, make walking and biking safer and easier, and encourage rational density.

There's a lot left to do but we have made a great start.

Posted by Dawgson | April 18, 2008 2:50 PM

this graph is probably just as relevant:

in that if there were more pirates and if they stopped driving their SUV's we could reach 1850 levels of global temperature.

yeah it's an old graph and all, but it is right that global warming is hurting polar bears and pirates.

Posted by pissy mcslogbot | April 18, 2008 2:52 PM

@16 - if you rode on turboprop planes, you'd use way less fuel.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 18, 2008 3:27 PM

McG, your mere existence causes more carbon output than your non existence. perhaps it's time to say goodbye and hang yourself?

ECB, the point is, is per capita gas consumption the best measure of environmental impact? stop being a shithead and telling us to "read the report" when you post up a metric that doesnt tell us much in the first place.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 18, 2008 4:03 PM

that report is nothing if not "changing the goalposts" or "shifting the parameters" best it is "creeping normalcy", for what sake I don't know, perhaps for the comfort of all the 2-stroke vespa owners out there?

Posted by pissy mcslogbot | April 18, 2008 4:20 PM

That's great, but what's the percentage difference of Northwest population between those 40 years?

Posted by K | April 18, 2008 4:26 PM

Some of this has to be due to average car MPG. I remember back in the 1960s (barely), when almost all cars had big V-8s, and got about 8 mpg. And nobody gave a fuck because gas was about $0.30 a gallon. Now, despite the occasional moron in a Hummer, overall fleetwide gas milage is way WAY higher. At least double. That probably accounts for the huge drop in the late 1970s.

But the steady drop in the last decade is probably a good sign. Overall MPG hasn't changed much in the last decade, so you can't really attribute the recent decline in gas consumption on better MPG. I'd guess that a lot of that must be due to change of driving habits: people driving less, choosing smaller cars, taking transit, etc.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | April 18, 2008 5:20 PM

Dan @ 16: OK, I suppose offing your boyfriend COULD represent a big carbon offset, if the late boyfriend had a long commute and drove an SUV. Still, doesn't it seem a little severe?

Posted by Eric in Boulder | April 18, 2008 6:12 PM

Memo to ECB: the population goes up every year, so multiply that per capita number by the number of people, and usage went up, just like it does every year.

You're fighting a tsunami.

Posted by Gomez | April 18, 2008 8:29 PM

@27 - depends on age. As the population bubble of teenagers has just reached driving age, it's more of a short term spike, actually.

(statistics at Seattle School District)

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 19, 2008 2:22 AM

@27: Then are you saying we should attempt population control? I'm not sure what your point is.

Posted by Dawgson | April 19, 2008 9:56 AM

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