I find myself returning to this topic a lot, perhaps because it’s something that affects both the cast of characters (and I do mean characters) at FAR Manor and everyone else around us. I don’t intend for it to become an energy blog though.
Fuel supplies on Planet Georgia are still hovering close to barely adequate or maybe slightly less. Gas stations still run out on occasion (especially a certain BP station close to my office), and it’s not uncommon to see other stations having only one grade of gas available. Prices are a tick below $3/gallon, which is eating Lobster alive. [I told him to look for something smaller than the truck, but he wasn’t listening. He was in love with that Ranger.] Rumors of a climb to $4/gallon this month haven’t materialized... yet. Thank God.
On the other hand, I’m seeing some hopeful signs that people are getting fed up and actually doing something about it. My in-laws started driving less after prices got above $2/gallon. The president of Shell Oil thinks demand will decline (which is why they don’t plan to build more refineries) — current vehicle sales trends seem to confirm that. Demand for big new SUVs has dropped to the point where Ford stopped making Excursions at the end of September. SUV owners are trading in their gas guzzlers in droves, getting smaller cars.
No less than four motorcycle dealers have set up shop between FAR Manor and the office — certainly, some of them are “power-sport” or “lifestyle” oriented, but one Suzuki and United Motors (a Chinese make) dealer had a sign out front recently: “We get 70MPG. Do you?” With fall settling in and winter on the way, some of those new bikes will end up in the garage for a few months; but when it starts warming up again, I’m looking forward to not being the only rider on the road in the morning. (That’s not totally true even now; I’m seeing more bikes on the road but I’m not sure if it’s gas prices or fall weather bringing them out... probably both.) Come spring, there could be a lot of bikes on the road, especially if predictions of honest-to-God shortages over the winter come true.
In the long run, or even the medium run, moving to more fuel-efficient vehicles won’t be enough. If we’d continued to bite the bullet we bit back in the 70s, it might have — but Reagan pretty much p!$$3d away that opportunity, and his successors made (at best) token efforts. Some of the changes coming will be positive — manufacturing and markets will become local again, at the expense of national or international chains — but we will end up being a much less mobile society, and that will be a wrenching change for many people.
Forewarned is... half an octopus.