Seriously, there is a lot of non-essential, non-commuting farting around on the roads. A LOT. It's so cheap to do most people don't give it a second thought.
While true, it is probably only about 3k miles a year for the more extreme cases. I added up all my non-essential driving over this year so far, including cruising around with friends, hooligan-esque activities, and 'road trips', and it's around 1,800 miles. We do stupid things involving motor vehicles almost every week.
Cruising along city streets at 20-30 mph really doesn't use many gallons per hour. You get a lot more time operating a vehicle per gallon of gas used than mundane highway speed commuting, where you will cover twice the distance in less than half the time(even though highway fuel economy will give better gas mileage).
When I was a teenager, having a job close enough to walk and not using a car to commute to school, my driving was completely discretionary, and added up to about 3k miles per year.
Now, I have ~8k miles of commuting a year, and ~2k miles that is discretionary.
The bulk of the driving that is done in most cases is probably commuting. Unless we get a good mass transit system in place, this will not change in the U.S. People will keep buying gas and driving to work so long as the amount of money they make at work outweighs the cost of transportation. Once the economics change, many people will quit going to work, as has happened in rural California and elsewhere once $3.00/gallon came.
I'm sure someone might have some real numbers on hand(eg. Americans commute an average of X miles per day but drive a total of X miles per day), to throw a little facts into this discussion, instead of my heresay.
With the last round of high prices it seems people just accepted it and now the breaking point has moved a little higher.
My father has worked as a lobbyist for passenger rail service in the US.
The dollar amount for people to "switch to public transport" over their cars in surveys is always $0.50-$1.00 more than current gas prices throughout history. When it was almost $2 a gallon, they claimed they would make the switch at $2.50, when it hit $2.50, the number became $3.00....
I don't have any confidence in the people as a whole to recognize the big picture for what it is. The only way people will change their ways is after it hits them in the pocketbook HARD ENOUGH to deprive them of some other frivolous thing.
You mean adjustable rate home equity mortgage and credit card limit, right?
I find that gas prices are actually at their lowest on New Year's Day. Regina SK, Canada's gas price right now (according to www.reginagasprices.com) is around $2.80US$/USgallon, so I voted $2.81 - $3.00.
The average price of gasoline in Regina today (according to www.reginagasprices.com) is bang right on $3.00US$/USgallon. The cheapest in town is around $2.78US$/USgallon.
I went with $2.61-$2.80 because the oil companies are who they are, traitorous scum stealing from you and me. This is probably their last chance to stick it to us because if they push it too hard after the Dems get in, they could risk a Congressional investigation. Establish a high expectation price and try to stick to it.
At gassbuddy.com I am seeing above or below $2.60 in Los Angeles for regular, so I was pretty close for my locale.