Impact of rising gas prices: "Less meat, more pasta"

It's taken a long time, but finally statistical evidence is beginning to trickle in:  Americans are starting to curb their gasoline consumption:

Average daily gasoline consumption in the United States has decreased
in each of the past four weeks from a year ago, according to recent
data [from the U.S. Department of Energy]. In the past six months, average daily consumption slipped
two-tenths of a percent from a year earlier, after growing 2.5 percent
in the previous year.

One distributor tells the Boston Globe he sees unquestionable evidence of smaller and less frequent fill-ups.

In the Northeast, gasoline demand has dropped as much as 3 percent,
after growing 1 to 2 percent annually in recent years, said Joe
Petrowski, chief executive of Gulf Oil LP, a Newton wholesaler and
distributor that supplies about 10 percent of the region's gas stations.

the signs that drivers are cutting back from last year: They're buying
nearly 2 gallons less per card transaction at Gulf-supplied stations,
said Petrowski.

And the anecdotal evidence the Globe found from ordinary folks is, well, compelling:

Take Lisa Towle, for example. She lives in Dunstable, where, she
says, "we don't have any sidewalks and any stores nearby," and she
commutes 25 miles each way to her job in North Andover. It costs her
$40 to $50 to fill up her 1998 Volvo station wagon.

Towle, 44,
now limits herself to one fill-up a week. She puts off buying more milk
until she needs a bigger shopping trip. She used to drop her
13-year-old daughter off at basketball practice, make the 15-minute
drive back home, then return to pick her up at the end of the 90-minute
session. Now, she waits at the school…

prices are an obsession with our family," Lisa Towle said. "If I have
to fill up more than once a week, it has to come from somewhere else.
More pasta and less meat."

I find this last comment, offered in the most offhand way, really unsettling:  In the developing economies of the world, growing wealth has allowed diets to become less grain-intensive, more protein-intensive.  And now in our own country, it seems the opposite is happening.

The Daily Reckoning