0

Conservative driving habits affecting fuel prices

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Motorists are becoming more environmentally conscious, according to data produced by some regional agencies.

Weaknesses in consumer demand and the drive to reduce fuel consumption by individuals have pushed gas prices down to three-year lows.

"I don't think we've seen prices this low since 2005," said Gregg Laskoski, spokesman with AAA Auto Club South. "We're still seeing consumer demand going down. People are cautious."

The declining gas prices are due, in part, to declining consumption and partly to the growth in the value of the U.S. dollar, compared to the EURO. Both have been connected to the global economy. Concerned with the downturn in the economy, U.S. consumers are more particular on how they spend money. Contrarily, the value of the U.S. dollar has gained ground on currency in Europe, which is also suffering an economic recession.

The average price for gas Tuesday was about $2.06 per gallon of regular unleaded in the U.S., more than a dollar cheaper than this time a year ago. Consumers paid an average $1.95 per gallon in Georgia, Tuesday, and $1.92 in metro Atlanta.

According to Laskoski, prices may continue to fall through the remainder of the year, falling as low as $1.80 per gallon statewide and $1.75 per gallon, in spots, as consumer demand continues to decline.

Fewer people driving automobiles as often as they have in the past helps the environment, and will help keep tons of pollutants out of the air. More and more people are accepting alternative modes of transportation, as well as other programs geared toward decreasing air pollution.

Motorists' perception and awareness of Georgia's vehicle inspection and maintenance program, for instance, has improved according to a survey by Georgia's Clean Air Force, which administers the program. The survey, conducted in July, included more than 300 telephone interviews with a random sample of adult motorists within the 13-county, metro area subject to inspections.

The organization's emission-testing study revealed that the program maintained a record high rating of 9.0 on a 10.0 scale, regarding motorists' overall emission testing experience.

"We're committed to educating residents about the role they play in helping Georgians breathe a little easier by getting their cars' emissions tested each year," said Cherrise Boone, a spokesperson with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

"These annual studies help us determine how Georgia's Clean Air Force can better educate and serve metro Atlanta motorists."

The 12th annual study affirms that more people accept the emissions testing program - about 77 percent of motorists, an increase of 8 percent from 2007. Of that 77 percent that reported acceptance of the emission testing program, 43 percent believe the program is worthwhile because it helps metro Atlanta's air quality.

The Clean Air Force estimates its emissions-testing program will keep more than 4,700 tons of pollutants from entering the air in 2009.