Sunday, September 25, 2005

We all share the same addiction

When a person thinks of energy choices for their home, they have a minimum of two choices. Electricity and one form or another of fossil fuels (LP, Natural Gas...). Most have a combination of the two which, in turn , reduces the effects and dependance if the supply of one should be disrupted.

When it comes to transporting ourselves between point A and point B, we have only one mainstream choice. CNN calls it our oil addiction. With nearly 100% of our personal and fleet vehicles powered by fossil fuels, one has to wonder not whether but when the fuel which they use will become either so exorbitantly out of reach in price or the supply so depleted that our fleet of fossil fuel guzzling automobiles will become fossils too.

Nearly one-hundred years ago, our supply of oil seemed infinite. Then came industrialization which ramped up comsumption. Our need for more electricity grew and oil fueled power plants were built. The ample supply of energy further fueled growth and after World War II, suburbs -- further from crowded cities -- sprang up and quickly filled and led to the construction, due to extremely affordable fuel for our cars, of second and third ring suburbs now with development in our very own Twin Cities stretching 45 miles or more from the original cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul with vast amounts of space leapfrogged and used by sprawling estates and highways which fill to capacity and become parking lots at times.

In the past five years, though, this expansion form our relatively cheap sources of fossil fuel has caught up with us. Some can blame terrorism and wars in far-flung places on the skyrocketing costs of fuel to keep our vehicles moving and our sprawling homes (guilty) heated during a harsh Minnesota winter but the truly guilty party are the very people who fill the very highways that the cheap oil built in the first place.

A recent Pew research survey shows that almost seven in ten polled want more spending on mass transit systems as alternatives to the SUVs and minivans that clog our highways. Not surprisingly is the additional fact that eight of ten surveyed want higher fuel efficiency rates for our vehicles.

If so many want these changes, why then is nothing being done. Why are mileage standards only mildly better today that then were nearly thirty years ago. Take, for example my very own Dad's rarely driven 1977 Ford F-150 (300 inline 6 cyl. engine with 250,000+ miles) which he has owned over its entire life and still gets about 15 miles per gallon. Then flash forward to a 2004 F-150 which gets its owner the same or even less mileage from that same gallon of gas.

Where is the progress? Why have we been stuck in neutral (pardon the pun) for 30+ years?

1 comment:

Hugh said...

One reason that nothing has changed is that the major oil companies don't want us to change our habits so they lie about the oil reserves in order to encourage investment in their companies and give us all the confidence to carry on buying gas guzzeling vehicles. This way the fuel becomes scarse sooner and what is left becomes extremely expensive giving the oil companies massive profits. I know this from a friend in the oil exploration business who tells me that many of the new oil fields are only a charrade and will never produce significant quantities of oil.