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.
The first, according to the Federal Highway Administration, was 2008, when George W. Bush was president and the nation was in a deep recession.
The second was 2011, the third year of President Obama's term in office.
But Obama may be accomplishing something more significant than presiding over a single year when Americans decreased the miles they drove. 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.
One reason Americans are driving less is obvious. On Jan.19, 2009, the day before Obama's inauguration, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $1.83 per gallon. Since then, it has more than doubled. On Monday, it was $3.71.
Do rising gas prices distress the leading intellects in the Obama administration? There is good reason to believe the opposite.
John Holdren is Obama's White House science and technology adviser. In 1973, he joined with population control advocates Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich in writing an environmentalist manifesto titled "Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions."
It called for government action to find "alternative activities" for the auto industry.
"In the transition from a cowboy economy to a spaceman economy, manufacturing industries will have to undergo vast changes," Holdren and the Ehrlichs wrote. "The largest manufacturing industry in the United States is the automobile industry, and its product is a dominant factor in the depletion of resources and the destruction of the environment. The industry therefore makes a particularly suitable case study for economic change."