There’s a new threat to the happy, wholesome American family. It’s more imminent than trashy T.V. or unchristian heathens. In fact, it’s parked in the driveway, or in the garage.
A new report by the New York Times blames cars for burdening the nuclear family—and breaking the bank. In this bad (and worsening) economy, the rising cost of fuel is cinching family budgets tighter than ever before. Experts predict that the cost of gasoline will jump to around $4 per gallon by the spring—and families are already feeling the burn.
The NYT told the story of one such family:
For ordinary Americans like Phyllis Berry, a 31-year-old factory worker for General Motors in Cleveland, gasoline costs are starting to hurt.
“I used to fill it up pretty regularly, but now I drive it until the tank is almost empty, looking for the cheapest place to buy gas,” said Ms. Berry, who drives a beat-up Dodge Caravan.
She said that she used to take her four children to the movies four or five times a month. But with the cost of gas, tickets, popcorn and soda adding up to $70, they now go only once a month.
While Berry’s four children sacrifice an extra double-feature of Finding Nemo, other families are undoubtedly doing more to cut back than skipping a matinee or the buttered concessions. Most American families rely on a car for the bulk of their transportation needs, yet it could be the family car that leads the Cleavers—and the rest of the country—to financial demise.
Our cars will catalyze bigger financial repercussions than mere penny-pinching at the pump. “The effect of high oil prices today could be the difference between having a recession and not having a recession,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a Harvard economist.
The good news is that Americans are using less fuel—because they can’t afford it.
The NYT reports:
American consumers have responded belatedly by cutting back on their energy use. Oil demand in the United States grew by just 0.4 percent in 2007 and is expected to be flat in 2008.
As gas prices rise, it appears that Americans are filling up less frequently. Will this mean we’ll learn to rely less on our cars? Whatever the case, we know that our current model isn’t sustainable. Cars are an expensive habit—and are growing more expensive by the day. How much will we pay to get our fix, and for how long?
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