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Americans Are Finding Alternatives to Offset High Energy Prices


U.S. gas prices are hitting $.75 a liter, and home heating costs are also expected to increase by 50 percent or more this winter. Some Americans are changing their habits as a result

Following the hurricanes on the U.S. Gulf Coast, nearly 70 percent of natural gas output and 86 percent of oil production remain shut down. And as gasoline and natural gas prices soar, the Bush administration called for the first time on Americans to conserve. “We can encourage employees to car pool and use mass transit, and shift electricity to off-peak hours,” President Bush told reporters recently.

High prices had already led some people to drive less. Rob Love’s Land Rover sits idle many days now. Instead, Mr. Love uses his own energy to commute to work – on a bicycle.

“I think $3 was the limit,” the 52-year-old architect told a reporter. “I was still buying gas at $2.90 and $2.95. Then at three bucks and $3.18, you start to look at your alternatives and say, ‘Well, wait a minute.” When he does use his car, he makes sure that his grocery shopping and other errands can be done in one trip. “If I get back and say, ‘Oh, you know I need that other thing,’ well, I’ll do that next week,” Mr. Love said.

Kathryn Voth has stopped taking her daughter to school in the family minivan. They walk the 1.5 kilometers instead. “I am saving about $55 a month. The higher the gas price goes, the more I save,” Ms. Voth said.

Americans are also reconsidering their car choices. Sales of gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles and trucks fell sharply in September. Meanwhile, higher heating oil and natural gas bills are leading some Americans to look at old-fashioned options. Wood stove retailers say business is booming.

“We’ve sold through so many orders of stoves that right now in the country, manufacturers can’t keep up with the demand,” a store manager in a suburb of Washington, D.C., says. “They’re telling us it’s going to be months out before we can even get product.”

Kathryn Voth is among those who are planning to turn the thermostat down. “I have been telling the kids to get ready for sweatshirts, and slippers. And we will be using our fireplace more and close off rooms that are not used.” At least for this coming winter, using less is the one sure-fire way to save on costs.