Are energy prices driving us towards location-efficiency?

In two separate blog posts, U.S. News and World Report writer Marianne Lavelle crunches some of the numbers on the effect gas prices will have on the latest economic stimulus package that President Bush recently approved. (Part I, Part II) Based on projected increases in gas and other petroleum-related energy prices, Lavelle finds that as much as half of the stimulus money could be poured directly into buying gasoline, and as the title of her posts state, everyone would basically be “signing your economic stimulus to the Saudis.”

She ends with a very clear conclusion: “Economists know that if we truly enter a recession (with unemployment high enough to curb commuting), people will drive less. But if we don’t find a way to drive less now, we’ll be on an even surer road to recession.”

More and more people are already figuring out a surefire way to drive less: live close to what you need. The escalation of energy prices and our awareness of the dependence on foreign sources for a rapidly-depleting resource are prompting more people in the mainstream to think about where they live, where they work, where they need to go, and how to cut down on the distance between them. The Wall Street Journal covered the changes earlier this week:

The combination of forces is prompting Americans to cut back on driving, sometimes taking public transportation instead. It’s also setting the stage for what may be a long-term slowdown in gasoline demand by forcing Americans to become more fuel-efficient faster. …As consumers make major spending decisions, such as where to live and what kind of vehicle to drive, they are beginning to factor in the cost of fuel. … The housing boom encouraged the development of far-flung suburbs, contributing to longer commutes. Now developers are building more walkable neighborhoods close to city centers and public transit, and Americans are beginning to migrate back toward their workplaces, city planners and other experts say.