Americans drove 3.6% less, or 9.6 billion miles fewer, in July 2008 than July 2007. This is really a pretty amazing graph:
High gas prices aren't all bad. In fact, if you subsidize (or at least allow a deduction for) economically important transportation, raising gas prices might not be a bad way to get people to be more thoughtful about when and how they drive. It might also speed up the transition to cleaner, more efficient vehicles.
All this, of course, from a guy who doesn't do a lot of driving.
They way I see it - we have 4 things that have come together to form the perfect environment for a huge shift in how we power our cars.
1) The scientific data that has shown that climate change/global warming is indeed taking place due to fossil fuel overuse.
2) The awareness of ongoing turmoil in the Middle-East that brings into question who controls the oil supply, the reality of an oil-addicted USA, and how our economy's vulnerable to interruption of supply. Most noteably Iraq and the ongoing costs of that conflict.
3) Oil prices skyrocketing - thus gas and diesel prices going thru the roof... This is a daily reminder to Americans of the issues with oil dependence - causing a trend towards typical citizens demand for alternatives.
4) Battery technology other than lead-acid becoming available to power vehicles - most noteably Ni-Mh and Li-Ion.
These 4 things create a market reality for hybrids, PHEVs, and BEVs - we see it happening right now in the automobile marketplace.