The Increasingly Irrelevant Price of Gas
Earlier this year, when gas mysteriously rose toward the three-dollar-per-gallon level, I grumbled a little.
That is, until I remembered that it hasn’t been that many years since I figured petrol would never dip below the three-dollar-level again.
Then it started dipping, followed by most welcome news a month ago that prices were set to plunge.
They had already dropped to around two dollars near Houston, in areas surrounded by oil refineries. Just in time for a couple summer trips we had planned.
Regardless of where gasoline prices wind up by summer’s end, there’s a more interesting long-term development at hand than the cost of a gallon.
Namely, long-range forecasts that over the next two decades the internal combustion engine will disappear into the “dustbin of history.”
That was the term used in a story that ran on the BBC News site last October.
Headlined “Why you have (probably) already bought your last car,” it cited a growing number of tech analysts who predict we will stop owning cars in less than 20 years.
The primary reason: self-driving electric vehicles arranged in Uber-style networks will make transportation so reasonable that many people will decide they no longer need to own a car.
Now, as the resident of a primarily rural state, I can find fault with that prediction pretty quickly.
Most mass transit, Uber-style and car-sharing platforms are predicated on metropolitan areas with a critical mass of people and infrastructure to help transform the idea into reality.
While I think cars will retain their necessity-level in our area longer than metro areas, I am seriously thinking of never owning another vehicle.
Now, our aging relic is nearing the 200,000-mile mark. But we have devised a long-term solution: rent a car for vacation and other out-of-town trips and keep the old beast going. Literally until it drops.
We had contemplated replacing it late last year. Then, what appeared to be a reasonably-priced solution turned out to be a lemon.
The place offering it agreed to let us take it to our garage for an inspection. After driving the rattletrap partway there, I turned around and it back.
We test drove several others and didn’t care for any of them either.
One especially discouraging discovery was how automakers had inflated the size of SUVs.
Yes, they are popular, but there is no longer what I consider a small SUV. Just a fleet of gas-guzzling behemoths that don’t interest me.
Finally, my wife and I decided our car was paid for and quite suited for trips around town. An occasional rental car is much cheaper than car financing that can outstrip our mortgage payment (seriously).
Laying Down Arms
Aside from the personal considerations of high-priced cars, the prediction that cars are on the way out introduce another reality to modern, politically-fractured America: the Green New Dealers and the fossil-fuel lobbyists should lay down their arms.
The wars between environmentalists and gasoline advocates are headed for the same irrelevancy as traditional autos.
Both are rooted in intractable, “my way or the highway,” line-up-my-guns-against-yours-and-see-who-wins kind of thinking.
While they argue, fuss, and fire verbal volleys at each other, forward-thinking innovators will be coming up with ways to move people around that will sidestep the fray.
In the meantime, hope that gas remains cheap for the rest of the summer.