Peak oil might be less of a problem now that America has reached peak car. According to research by Michigan’s Sustainable Worldwide Transportation, both the ownership of light-duty vehicles such as cars, SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks, plus the corresponding distance driven, began to wane in 2006. The reasons aren’t clear. “Friends and foes of car-centric planning have been fervently debating whether the post-2006 driving decline was a recession-driven trough or a reflection of the fact that younger Americans, with their Uber-hailing aversion to car ownership, were truly driving the automobile age to an early grave,” wrote Andrew Small in Citylab, a blog from the Atlantic, on Tuesday.
There are hints—but just barely—of a rebound. Vehicle-ownership rates per person and per household rose by 1.4 percent from 2012 to 2015. Similarly, the distance driven per person and per household increased by 2.1 percent between 2013 and 2015.
As Smalls points out, all eyes are now on President Donald Trump. “The new administration’s pledge to roll back environmental and safety regulations might conceivably (eventually) make new car ownership cheaper and lure some Millennials back behind the wheel. (Especially if federal support for mass transit drops off the face of the earth.),” Smalls said. “On the other hand, the president’s proposed 20 percent tax on goods from Mexico would do the opposite.”
TL;DR: We’re going to have to wait a few years to see how things shake out.
Photo by Benjamin Child