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Surging gas prices not affecting demand

Gasoline prices are high, but not nearly high enough to curb demand, a fuel economy specialist at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory says.


David Greene says that even if gas reached $4 per gallon, it would have little effect on how much people drive and how much gas they buy.

"If gas prices were to double, we'd only see about a five percent decrease in fuel demand and driving immediately," Greene says. "People can drive more fuel efficient vehicles and the stock can turn over. We see a very inelastic response of driving and fuel demand in the short run due to higher gas prices."

Nationwide gas prices soared more than 12 cents over the past two weeks to reach a record high of more than $2 per gallon according to the Lundberg Survey of 7,000 gas stations across the country. Greene says the auto industry should focus more of its efforts on producing vehicles that operate on alternatives to petroleum.

Federal programs such as the Partnership for a New Generation Vehicle, which seeks to develop a car that gets 80 miles per gallon of gas, and the FreedomCAR initiative to build a vehicle that runs on a hydrogen-powered fuel cell are helping to develop such technologies, he says.

"Hybrid vehicles were a major part of the Partnership for a New Generation Vehicle and now the FreedomCAR program," Greene says. "Advanced clean diesel technology provides 30 to 50 percent higher fuel economy than gasoline vehicles. Tremendous progress has been made in reducing the emissions of those vehicles."

DOE's fuel economy web site is managed by ORNL's Transportation, Policy and Planning Group and can be located at

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.