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How the Oil Spill Has Impacted Auto Buyers

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On: Fri, Jun 11, 2010 at 3:34PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

How the Oil Spill Has Impacted Auto Buyers

The jury may be out for now as to whether the tragic Gulf of Mexico oil spill will have a lasting effect on consumer’s outlook toward oil consumption. For now, the effects of the catastrophic spill are certainly forcing awareness of the issue of oil dependence on all of us.

So how are consumers responding?  A poll recently completed by MSNBC asked 1,200 visitors to their website what their reaction is to the Gulf oil spill, and 57% of those who responded stated that they are actively working to try to rely on less oil. 43% of those who answered the poll stated that it is not feasible to reduce their personal oil consumption.

According to the MSNBC poll, consumer response varied quite a bit, including statements such as “I will never own another gasoline-burning vehicle. I will walk, take public transportation, and ride a bike. If I need to go a long way and haul my property, I will use a horse and wagon or a fully electric car,” Other comments ran the full gamut, comments such as “How else am I supposed to get to work? I consume what I consume due to necessity…There are simply no alternatives that are economically viable at this time. The Chevy Volt would be a great alternative if it were not so expensive.”

In reality, there seems to be an enormous rise in awareness about new innovations that could reduce our dependence on foreign oil, such as the arrival of the electric plug-in vehicle, but as Tom Baruch director of CMEA Capital stated in a recent Forbes article, “Yet there remains a disconnect between the events in the Gulf and both consumer behavior (in terms of energy usage) and energy policy (or lack thereof). The Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 didn’t have an effect or help the cause of alternative energy.”

The type of leak BP faces is difficult to plug and, at the rate of 5,000 barrels of oil (210,000 gallons) being discharged into the ocean each day, the volume leaked will exceed the Exxon Valdez spill incident by the third week of June if efforts at remediation fail. While the pictures of oil-soaked birds cause most of us to feel empathetic, changing our lifestyle is a whole different scenario. Most consumers make long term significant change in their behavioral pattern only when “the pain hits our pocketbooks.”

According to some experts, that “pain” may be just around the corner after President Obama’s decision to put a freeze on deep-water drilling in the Gulf. Drilling for oil and gas in the region dropped by 50 percent last week to the lowest level in 16 years, which may result in a significant increase in oil price—which we may not realize at the gas pump for a couple of years yet.

In the meantime, environmentalists everywhere are asking for the public to consider, more than ever before, making a change, such as the purchase of an electric plug-in vehicle, car pooling, or downsizing to a more fuel efficient car or truck—if the polls are correct it looks like, for now anyhow, more than 50% of us are already on-board.


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