Automobile travel isn't just the American way of life, but it's often associated with American culture.
Now much of the rest of world population is also trying to adopt that way of life. Voting with their wheels so to speak in places like India and China. This pushes up worldwide demand for oil, faster than the supply can keep up.
As Americans kind of pat themselves on the back for having lifestyles which much of the world emulates, that "success" makes the lifestyle less affordable. Oil now pushing 103 dollars per barrel. The price of popularity. It's being on the "beaten path."
Now it's time to look for less beaten paths.