In May, the Department of Interior estimated that U.S. territory contains about 139 billion barrels of undiscovered oil resources, much of it (85.9 billion barrels) off our coasts on the Outer Continental Shelf. Development of most of this oil is either forbidden or effectively prevented by federal laws and regulations.
Also in May, when the Federal Highway Administration released its monthly report on "Traffic Volume Trends," it revealed that Americans had driven 4.3 percent fewer miles in March 2008 than they had in March 2007. This was the fifth month in a row that Americans had driven fewer miles than they had in the same month the previous year.
"The March 2008 data," Federal Highway Administration spokesman Doug Hecox told me, "represent the sharpest single-month drop in vehicle miles of travel in the 66-year history that such data have been collected."
Are we at the beginning of a fundamental shift in the way Americans use cars? The lead article in Tuesday's Washington Post suggested this might be so. It was headlined, "Fuel Prices Challenge Cars' Reign," and relied partly on a survey of 43,000 American drivers released on June 9 by The NPD Group, which does market research for private industries.
The NPD survey showed that some Americans have indeed made changes in their lives because of historically high inflation-adjusted gasoline prices. According to a statement released by the company, 12 percent said they have cancelled a vacation because of the gas prices; 12 percent have carpooled; 8 percent have taken public transportation; 8 percent have vacationed closer to home; 6 percent have purchased a more fuel efficient vehicle, 6 percent have worked from home; 6 percent have worked closer to home; 4 percent have worked less; 3 percent have sold a less-fuel-efficient vehicle; 2 percent have moved closer to where they work; and 1 percent have purchased an electric or hybrid vehicle.
Hopefully, the 8 percent who have taken to socialized transportation represents a trend that can be reversed.
We should drill our own oil -- now. And, when the supply naturally diminishes to where prices drive the market elsewhere, American entrepreneurs must create another fuel whose production the government cannot readily curtail, and that keeps Americans driving where they want to, when they want to, in privately owned cars.