More has been written about the price of oil and the cost of transportation in the past year than in the previous 30. Before that we had the oil crisis of the 70s and since then our inability to make any progress on fuel efficieny has been strangled by the car companies and their complicit allies of all political stripes.
Now the refrain we've heard from the car companies has been consistent and can be boiled down to the now familiar "the free market fairy will fix it"; now 30 years later as gas prices are over four dollars a gallon we are about to see the free market fairy in action as Americans switch to more fuel efficient vehicles and American car companies are caught by suprise. By surprise, as if it's possible to be caught by surprise with 30 years notice, now that the free market fairy has taken an axe to their sales and a company like Ford is expected to lose $2 billion this year.
Am I supposed to have any sympathy? Who should I have sympathy for? The buyers of SUVs now stuck with drastically devalued vehicles they couldn't trade in for the cost of a Yugo? The American car companies, foiled yet again by their own complacency and short-sightedness into almost going backrupt? Or for the average tax payer who is going to have to pick up the tab for the inevitable bailouts, because, we'll be told, that rescuing these knuckle-dragging corporate behemoths is "in the strategic interest of the country".
We need more mass transit, and it is certainly within our means and tradition of grand projects. We should be able to build smart mass transit, something that will start working for the suburbs, like these folks are planning on doing for air travel could be done for scheduling buses; doing just in time dispatch of vehicles, building an auction system where you can bid up the price your willing to pay for a shorter trip to your destination, etc, all managed from your cellphone.
It looks like we're in for a bumpy ride, I just hope we have the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing this time.
Like I said, there's been more ink spilled on this subject than I can ever remember, here's some of the links I've collected:
- American Energy Policy, Asleep at the Spigot
- The peak oil culture wars
- BosWash is a real term, and only slightly smaller than the fictional BAMA, the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis, of William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy.
- Stranded in Suburbia
- Dumb as We Wanna Be
- An Oracle of Oil Predicts $200-a-Barrel Crude