My parents drive an electric hybrid car and so does my brother and many of my parent’s friends do as well. I saw lots and lots of hybrids in California. The gas prices in California were the highest of the trip and so it makes sense that people would consciously want to economize, with prices nearing $3 a gallon. California also offers special incentives and rebates to people who own hybrids.
Driving home from the grocery store with my mom one day, she mentioned that I should go right instead of left. I thought it didn't matter, that each way was about the same distance. I asked her why and she said it was because it took less gas to go that way. She could tell in her car that going home this way, though perhaps not shorter, consumed less gas. It was a novel way to map the area and make navigation decisions, made possible by the readout in the hybrid car that details how much fuel is being consumed. People with hybrids form this whole new culture. When they get together they talk about what kind of mileage they are getting and my brother is having a competition with himself to see how well he can do. My mom says it has really changed the way he drives and he is now much less aggressive on the road.
So it seems to me that one small step to dealing with the fuel crisis in this country, while still acknowledging people's love of their cars and technology, would be to require that all cars, not only hybrids, have a readout that shows how much fuel is being used. It could even remember the most fuel efficient routes. With most new cars having computer screens these days and offering GPS, it seems a simple feature to add. People would learn how to conserve, perhaps have competitions with each other to conserve, and as an added bonus, tend to drive much less aggressively. They could see with their own eyes what really works. I, for one, am curious about how things like air conditioning and idling affect fuel economy. Education is the first step.