Remember how oil demand was going to fall because green millennials are different and don’t want to kill the planet? Well, think again.
Starting around 2012 there was a lot of discussion about millennials being different. “Why Don’t Young Americans Buy Cars?” asked Jordan Weissman in the Atlantic. “Why Aren’t Younger Americans Driving Anymore?” wrote Brad Plumer in the Washington Post.
At the time … the story also felt entirely plausible. Born in the 1980s and 1990s, millennials have grown up in the digital age, so it makes sense that they could have unique tastes and preferences. For many of us, the stereotypical millennial lives in an urban area, likes to bike, and uses public transit. Could it be that this generation has a fundamentally different relationship with driving? And, if so, might a generational shift go a long way toward reducing the harms caused by driving, like pollution and traffic congestion?
Could be, but probably isn’t. Fast forward to 2019. U.S. gasoline consumption has increased steadily now for seven years in a row. What looked in 2012 like a generational shift now looks more like a temporary blip.