The US will spend $440 billion on gas this year, $1,465 per person, and more than $2,100 per driver. With gas prices at more than $3.28 on average nationwide, the New York Times is demanding stricter fuel standards again, just four months after they were tightened for the first time in 30 years. It’s kind of obvious the changes were too little, too late and won’t make much of a difference. The Times also seems to call for a higher gas tax, seeing as we pay so little relative to the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, in Japan, the youth there aren’t even interested in cars. According to the Wall Street Journal:
Unlike their parents’ generation, which viewed cars as the passport to freedom and higher social status, the Internet-connected Japanese youths today look to cars with indifference, according to market research by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association and Nissan. Having grown up with the Internet, they no longer depend on a car for shopping, entertainment and socializing and prefer to spend their money in other ways.
A survey last year of 1,700 Japanese in their 20s and 30s by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan’s biggest business newspaper, discovered that only 25% of Japanese men in their 20s wanted a car, down from 48% in 2000. The manufacturers’ association found that men 29 years old and younger made up 11% of Japanese drivers in 2005, roughly half the size of that group in 1993.
The streets of Harajuku are filled with consumers like 20-year-old Kazuto Matsui. “Young people can borrow their parents’ car, and I think they’d rather spend money on PCs or iPods than cars,” says the student with shaggy hair who is in no rush to get a driver’s license. While Mr. Matsui says he may want a car some day, “trains will do” for now.
Too bad we don’t have trains yet, many people my age (mid-twenties) that I talked to are interested in ditching their cars but don’t really have a choice sometimes. What would be interesting to see, is that now as teens are waiting longer to drive, whether in 10 years, when those kids are in their mid-to-late-twenties, they’ll drive less than my generation. I bet they will, and with more efficient cars, the state might get to greenhouse gas goals without unpopular driver-limit mechanisms.