A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

09 April 2008

Green Choice, Black Gold, and Red Lights

I've been having to rethink my stance on unrestricted free-market capitalism these past two years, particularly. My earlier Avid Fans will recall that I used to express mild enthusiasm for deregulation, generally.

But that's not to say I don't still believe in the power of the market at the consumer level. Consider the article from the Tampa Bay Business Journal saying that gas is going to hit $3.60 US per gallon this summer.

In our earlier discussions below I mentioned that it's the poor who benefit most by green choices. I'd like to believe that gas at the equivalent of 93¢ Cdn per litre might send a few more people looking for alternatives.

But I ain't holding my breath. Gas here runs between a buck-twenty and one-twenty-six at the moment, and traffic isn't slowing down yet.

However there's hope, I notice that the article suggests that gas prices will
"peak" at $3.60. It is to laugh. When did gas last "peak" anywhere?

The price of gas goes up. Period. A combination of collusion on the part of oil companies and an opaque pricing process and policy mean that those of us who must drive are hostage to those who sell us fuel. But we don't have to be.

As the price goes up, people will make better, greener choices. Some will get aboard transit, some will carpool, others will walk. But whatever people do, the demand for change will finally grow too loud to be ignored. I actually find I'm almost looking forward to $5-a-gallon gas. Because then I believe we'll see some real changes.

In the end, the "consumers" (corporate-speak for "people") and the market will prevail.

So, to quote one of the geniuses who helped keep Big Oil such a vital part of modern life: "Bring it on."

Just to make your day, crude oil hit a new high today at $112 per barrel.

But I very much doubt it's "peaked".

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At 10:44 a.m., Blogger Wandering Coyote said...

At 33, I have never owned a car. I've always taken transit or walked, as I could. I have no plans of acquiring a car anytime in the future.

At 11:32 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

Well, I hope and think that either public demand will lead to better transit in this country, or that we'll start rethinking cityscapes.

Consider Britain. In most little hamlets you can get the basics of life with a short stroll. There's usually some sort of all-purpose grocery. And if it doesn't have just the exact kind of canapeés for when the Bishop drops by, you can hit Tesco's on the week-end by bus.

In San Diego, I once drove ten miles along an exurban freeway, then another few miles of roads, noticing that there wasn't a single store of any description in the "neighbourhood" of fenced yards and invisible houses, including "convenience," in sight.

In urban centres, we're starting to see more mixed-use buildings, where banking offices and shops occupy the bottom floor and yuppies buy the apartments above. Now we just need that trend to spread.

We need to rethink our internal definition of what a driving distance is, too. I'm trying to not use the car for trips when I can walk to my destination in under half-an-hour, and when I won't be carrying back too much.

If nothing else, I feel good about the money I save and my waistline is showing some slight, incremental, effects. Of the which more in a while.

At 7:10 p.m., Blogger Slave to the dogs said...

You're spot on here. I think that out of control prices will be what drives real change, both in personal choices and in technology.

At 9:17 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

Oh it'll help. But the old frog-in-boiling-water analogy applies. That's why governments need to set the example and create incentives. Whether it's positive incentives like rebates on low-flush toilets or negative ones like a carbon tax, the time has been here for a decade.

The longer we resist making the changes that are probably going to come anyway and can't possibly hurt us now, the harder and more unpleasant the changes will be once we're forced to make them.


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