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High Gas Prices Bring Silver Lining for SD Rural Community Revitalization

September 2, 2008

Lyons, NE – Rural South Dakotans are driving fewer miles this year - which is no surprise, with the high gas prices. But the change in driving habits is also prompting some changes in quality-of-life issues.

For instance, says Jon Bailey, rural research and analysis director for the Center for Rural Affairs, more people are shopping locally for goods and services. He cites a Federal Highway Administration (FHA) report showing a four percent decrease in miles driven by rural South Dakota residents this summer.

"It's a silver lining coming out of the higher gasoline prices. Not only are rural people apparently having less demand for gasoline through less driving - which helps decrease the price of gas and also instills some energy conservation - but it may be a good thing for the rural economy, too, as people obtain their goods and services closer to home."

Bailey says while driving less can be positive, he does have concerns about what can happen if gas prices stay high - for example, if people skip medical appointments to save money on fuel.

"Part of the potential problem is that people may be sacrificing some of those services that they need, or putting them off or not obtaining them as often as they need to, because of the cost and the distance involved in driving. So there are both good and bad things in those numbers."

The FHA reports gas and diesel consumption has declined by more than 300 million gallons of diesel and 400 million gallons of gas during the first quarter of this year, compared to 2007.

David Law/Steve Powers, Public News Service - SD