In yesterday's Wall Street Journal (free link here), Reason's Ronald Bailey pooh-poohed President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative, noting that "the only way we've ever cut back on imported oil is in response to higher prices."
Here's some data for U.S. oil consumption dating back to 1960. Forty-six years ago, we drank down 9.8 million barrels a day of the stuff, a number that had risen to 20.03 barrels a day by 2003. Clearly, those figures need to be adjusted for population growth but as Ron suggests, the only dips in consumption came during recessions and/or short-lived embargos, either of which effectively jacked the price of oil. The same basic pattern holds true for most countries.
There's an irony embedded in the consumption data and implicit in Ron's piece, too: The more efficient our cars, furnaces, you name it become, the more energy we consume, either by buying bigger houses, cars, refrigerators, or whatnot. After all, it becomes cheaper.