Continued observations on petrol pains

The price of gas seems to have become reasonable filler for news reports. The following are a few observations from these reports.

    * Ridership on public transit is going up, up, up.
    * Sales of scooters are on the rise.
    * A California man decided to bike 42 miles one way to work for a month — partly because he’d always wanted to, but in the process he’s saving about $400.
    * One investigative story found that the price of fuel is artificially high. Yes, there is more demand than ever worldwide, but what Americans are paying now is more a function of other bureaucratic and speculative nuances than simple supply and demand.
    * GM is closing four manufacturing facilities, all ones that produce large vehicles. And, heaven forbid, they may also discontinue the conspicuous Hummer.

In April I asked “Will the financial strain actually change the way we live?” So it seems the painful price of petrol is forcing people to make adjustments, positive adjustments. My next question is, then, will this change be long-lasting? If the price of gas returns to the low *cough* neighborhood of $2.00/gallon, will Americans stick with the changes they made when costs were high? Will those who moved closer to work move back to the burbs? Will trains and buses have empty seats again? Will General Motors bring back the big cars?

The prices don’t effect my wife and I quite as much as some. I already bike to work whenever I can — because I like to — and the drive from home to office is barely a mile as it is. This whole ordeal interests me, instead, because of its relationship to how we live and design/build our communities in the United States. I would love to see a cultural shift take place. If the cost of gas is the impetus for this change, great. I’m convinced that a pedestrian/transit oriented culture is better for community and also better for the visual environment. I don’t expect cars to go away; they are a useful technology. But they are also overused in our culture, so much so that they have, in essence, taken over.

A few past posts on petrol pain from The Aesthetic Elevator:

Will costs really force a change?
Gas prices cause Dallasite to move
Ethanol a Symptom: Get to the root cause


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

4 Responses to Continued observations on petrol pains

  1. eucharisto says:

    Well, as for me, I’m going to need a car no matter what. Any transition to centralized, urban-focused cities, and away from suburban sprawl will probably take decades. In the meantime, where I live north of Colorado Springs, it’s a fifteen mile drive minimum to any meaningful activities, including church. I also do a lot of traveling, and driving in a subcompact econobox is actually becoming cost-effective against flying, for longer trips, which I’ve had a lot of lately (unless of course we ever get a good high-speed rail here, which again will take years and years to build). I’ve considered selling my Ford Focus, which is good, but only gets about 26-29 mpg here at higher altitudes in CO, for a used Corolla or Civic HX, which will get upwards of 40 mpg. I measured it out, and that’s approx. a savings of over $600 per year. Not mind-blowing, but still very tempting, and as I highly dislike large cars anyway, I’d probably stick with it no matter what happens at the pump.

    If I ever do move where it is reasonable to bike, or better yet, just walk, I’ll switch to that.

  2. Tim J. says:

    The thing is, I remember the last oil crunch (Eisenhower was president when I was born… I’m old) and people made the same kind of lifestyle adjustments then. Detroit began making cruddy little cars made of foil and imports gained ground.

    It was amazing how fast people went back to their old ways after oil prices settled back down. Hope we’re smarter this time.

    I’m hypermiling, and so I’m getting at least 35mph in my Neon, but I’m also interested in this new bike trail from Bentonville to Fayetteville. I don’t think I could do my commute that way (it’s about 70 miles, round trip) but I’d like to make the trip once, for fun. Gotta keep taking off the weight, though.

  3. eucharisto says:

    Here’s the answer. 60 mpg? Gas guzzler.

  4. TAE says:

    Good points all.

    One thing not mentioned though is the matter of sustainability. Yes, people in the industry keep talking about how much more oil there is to be had from the Earth, but even so is that the best option? And what if they’re wrong? Should we be pursuing more long-lasting options that also make the global warming mongers happy?

    Just a few more thoughts for breakfast , , ,

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