Sightline's Braking News: Northwesterners Easing up on Gas

And we're outpacing the nation in reductions. Yippee!

Gasoline Consumption per Resident



In the face of high gas prices, what steps have you taken to conserve? Are you planning your daily trips so you can go one more day without having to make another trip to your local fill station? Are you driving less and walking and bussing more? Have you tossed out the SUV for a Honda?

If so, you’re not alone. Braking News, a report released today by Sightline, shows that northwesterners have cut back on per-person gasoline use for seven out of the last eight years, and we’re now using less gasoline per person than we have since 1966


Why? As our own Clark Williams-Derry writes, “Throughout the Pacific Northwest, transit ridership has increased steadily; new vehicle efficiency has improved modestly; and transit- and pedestrian-friendly development has made strides in our major cities.”

In fact, in 2007, we took the equivalent of a five-week vacation from driving, dropping 11 percent in per-capita consumption from 1999.

Even more surprising: We’re beating the nation as a whole when it comes to cutting back. A decade ago, we used more than the rest of the country; new numbers show we’re lower than the national average of per-person gasoline consumption by 9 percent.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. Rising population growth in the region has largely offset these strides: Total gasoline consumption—and gasoline-related greenhouse gas emissions – have remained roughly the same since 1999. And by global standards (and compared to neighbors in BC), we’re still guzzlers.

But with the right policies, “such as including transportation fuels in a regional cap-and-trade system,” we can speed our progress.

You can download the full report here. It’s even short! 

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  1. Stacey W-H says:

    Excellent work Clark! I smiled when I read it in the paper (Olympian) this morning. I am curious why diesel isn’t included? I believe it has seen a steeper increase than motor gasoline. I’m still waiting for good data to become publicly available on biofuels – if you happen upon it, I’d love to see a future article on that. Surely it’s making a visible dent in motorgas by now. DOL was overhauling their data collection system to be able to track it but I don’t know where that project stands now. So, I wonder if per capita consumption of motorgas, diesel and biofuels combined are still decreasing?(Some retirement! Now I spend my time reading YOUR work!)All the best,Stacey

  2. The King is Naked says:

    Too bad population growth negated any benefit. Too bad discussing population growth is taboo/politically incorrect/racially charged. Too bad the Northwest will never be a sustainable community until its residents wake up and demand a change/end to our immigration policies- and not just the policies against illegal immigration.

  3. Barry says:

    It seems like terrible news for our plans to stop climate chaos. In the last four years, gas prices have increased 230% in NW but per-capita consumption is only down a measly 6%. Yikes!So anyone have a guess how high gas prices have to go before we make any significant cuts in total transportation ghg emissions? Is there a politically possible carbon-tax/cap that can go high enough to cut demand when a 230% increase has yielded ZERO total ghg cuts overall so far?This brings me back to the elephant in the room that nobody seems to want to discuss: flat-taxing carbon will not yield significant ghg cuts. Sure the poor and lower middle classes will get hurt and make deep, economically-painful cuts in their gas consumption. This is already happening. But the majority of the gas consumption is not affected even by this huge price increase. Why? Again i go back to Professor Pacala’s research that shows less than 8% of humanity is responsible for 50% of global ghg emissions. And all these 8% are more wealthy that the average American. These globally super-wealthy are “spectacular emitters” and they will be the last to respond to flat price signals. And it isn’t just cars and transportation…it is everything. As Michael Pollan pointed out in his “Why Bother?” article in NYTimes Mag on Sunday, it takes 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of food these days. Food prices are rising dramatically in step with fossil fuel prices. It is creating a global food crisis for the poor with UN estimating one child dying every 5 seconds from hunger-related causes now. The world’s poor are already competing on price for fossil fuels and dying of hunger as their 50 cents a day can’t buy enough.Forcing the poor, middle-classes and wealthy to compete only on price for fossil fuels is a disaster of epic proportions. Not addressing climate change will be an even bigger one.We need new thinking and laws that force everyone to make ghg cuts or we will have carbon riots long before we have carbon cuts. We need to start talking about personal carbon caps or dramatically tiered carbon pricing. Or am i missing something in current carbon-cap/tax plans that will address this quandary?

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