01 June 2008

More than $100!

Last week, for the first time, I paid more than $100 to fill up my tank. Suddenly, it seems, filling up my car changed from being a casual payment to a major expense. It was this additional digit in the price that made peak oil suddenly all real in my personal life.

Of course, high oil prices have been a big problem for many people around the world for some time now (Shocked! How the oil crisis has hit the world.)

The oil price has been creeping up for a long time now. It's been at $135, and is currently at $127 as I'm writing this post. It will continue to rise, and together the price of petrol will rise, too!

What consequences does this have for me? What options do I have to reduce my petrol use? There are several options, though there are also constraints. The obvious constraint that comes to mind is family: currently we are taking our two little girls to the preschool. It would be an inconvenient and time-wasting procedure if we didn't have a car. This, simply, because the way our city is built and the way public transport operates. For my way to work I have a convenient direct bus line, and I suppose I could take up bicycling again - even though I don't feel particularly safe riding a bike. Again, that is mainly due to the way our roading system is built. And yes, of course, we could down-scale the car we are driving, to something more modest, more modern and more fuel-efficient.

However, putting those personal actions into the big context, I realize that it won't bring about the change we need. Nor does government policy that spends millions for transport, where only a tiny little fraction of the budget goes to public transport and bicycling. Because of the general increase of living costs, certain voices call for the reduction of taxes on fuel - that would be a futile move as well, as the temporary relief it gives to the consumer will be voided by further oil price increases in the short term, while government would be permanently losing a source of income. I'm convinced, only radical change really make a difference.

Given our culture of mobility and the layout of modern settlement, it is likely that we will continue to depend on individual personal transport. The only way out is if we finally disconnect our transport modes from the consumption of fossil fuels. It is about time that we develop alternative car engines, and mass-market them.

For years now I've been intrigued by the idea of an air powered car. It seems that now, finally, the Indian company Tata is starting to build them. How long will it take until they come to New Zealand? I hope we don't have to wait for very long ...!!!

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