Americans Drove Fewer Miles In 2011 Than Any Year Since 2003

When gas prices go higher, people drive less.

Barack Obama is now achieving a vision that environmentalist ideologues could only dream about in the 1970s: He is driving Americans out of their cars.

In the three decades since American voters threw Jimmy Carter out of office, there have been only two years when Americans did not drive their cars and trucks more miles than the year before. …

Since 1970, the FHA has tracked the “vehicle miles traveled” by Americans each year. It peaked in 2007.

That year, Americans drove a record 3.031 billion miles. In 2008, as might be expected in a severe recession, American curtailed their driving, going only 2.976 billion miles.

But the American urge to drive has clearly decelerated since Obama took office. In 2009, Americans drove only 2.977 billion miles, virtually no change from the 2.976 billion in 2008. In 2010, they drove 2.998 billion, still less than the 2007 peak. And, in 2011, they drove only 2.962 billion.

That is the fewest miles Americans have driven since 2003.

In January of 2009, when President Obama took office, the national average for gas prices was $1.83 per gallon. On Monday of this week, the national average was $3.71.

I’m reminded of this George Will column, from March of 2011, in which he puts his finger on the left’s disdain for the automobile:

Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons—to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.

The left hates cars for any number of reasons. The freedom of mobility is one, but also because of “global warming” which as become their catch-all for justifying all intrusions upon individual liberty.

President Obama claims that he would be crazy to want higher gas prices during an election year. The President’s caveat on higher prices during an election year is interesting. Of course he wants higher gas prices in general. He just doesn’t want the negative political fallout from said prices.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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