Saturday, April 24, 2004

High gas prices don't faze Americans

High gas prices don't faze Americans:

''It would be one thing if gasoline prices had steadily crept up,'' Shore said. ''But there's a spike. People haven't planned for it and suddenly their budget for gasoline has changed dramatically.''

''If people are alarmed about gasoline prices, they have a funny way of showing it,'' said Jerry Taylor, director of natural resource studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based libertarian think tank.

Taylor cites the uptick in SUV sales as a prime example. In the first three months of the year, SUV sales rose more than 10 percent from the 2003 period, with luxury SUV sales growing 5.7 percent, according to industry data. Sales of large pickup trucks rose 13 percent from a year earlier.

Sales of fuel-efficient smaller cars dropped more than 7 percent.

Demand for gasoline is another sign that the consumer culture remains unruffled by high gasoline prices.

Gasoline demand from April through September is expected to reach a new high of 9.32 million barrels per day, according to the Energy Information Administration. Demand for the week of April 16, the most recent numbers available, was 8.97 million barrels per day.

''I think it means that Americans intuitively understand that the price of gasoline is low and not particularly bothersome,'' Taylor said. ''Not only in inflation-adjusted terms, but as far as the percentage of their paycheck that goes to buying gasoline in any given month.''

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