The love affair with the road: Changing, not slowing down?

US environmentalist and Earth Policy Institute president Lester Brown had a good run last week with his projection that 4m more cars in the US were scrapped than sold in 2009, leading to a net decline in the country’s fleet.

It makes some sense, intuitively, with scrappage schemes and the recession; but the data is very preliminary; pre-2009 numbers comes from one source over the July 1 – June 30 periods, while the 2009 sales data is for the calender year, comes from a different source, and the 2009 scrappage number is a projection.

Plus, there are some signs that the great US driving era hasn’t quite peaked yet.

Morgan Downey uses Bloomberg data to show that US car sales have actually risen faster than expected recently:

However he also points out that the percentage of car sales, as opposed to SUVs and trucks, is increasing – and the December data suggests this trend could survive the post-cash-for-clunkers slump.

It’s a complicated picture. Reuters says the EIA will downgrade its 2010 growth forecast for US crude oil demand in its monthly report published later today.

Meanwhile there are reports around that China’s car sales overtook those of the US’ for the first time late last year. Whether – and when – the much-debated shift to electric vehicles occurs will have a big impact on both countries’ oil consumption.

Related links:

Oil demand has peaked in the developed world, but gas may still be on the rise (FT ES, 15/10/09)
US driving and demand destruction (FT ES, 12/08/09)

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