It’s an intriguing question to ponder. What will it take for we Americans to curb our driving habits and consider trading in our larger vehicles for smaller, more fuel-efficient models? How high do prices at the pump need to skyrocket in order to nudge us toward a more sustainable, energy-conservation mindset? Or is all this talk of increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and an impending energy crisis simply nonsensical heresay?
Since Henry Ford began production of the Model T back in 1908, the world’s love affair with the automobile has become so ingrained in our collective psyche that to consider life without it is simply unfathomable.
But though many consider gasoline-powered cars the sole obstacle to energy independence, consider the many airplanes, boats, ocean cruise liners, lawn mowers, construction equipment, plastics, power tools, landscaping equipment, and agricultural machinery needed to run our dynamic economy. Should anything happen where oil becomes a scarce commodity or otherwise too expensive to sustain, we could see a major economic decline that could easily surpass the Great Depression, except this time it would be global.
In a word, it’s all about the oil.
While European nations and others have focused on smaller vehicles and conservation for many years, America lags far behind. Driving is fun, and it reflects the very freedoms that America is based upon. The freedom to go where you want, when you want; the freedom to visit friends and relatives; and the freedom to take a break once in awhile and drive your family to the mountains or beaches. But at some point, each of us will be forced to adjust our lifestyles toward a more sustainable way of living and working.
The nascent energy crisis is significant, but global warming is a consideration as well. All renewable forms of energy have some impact on the environment, and we must take into consideration whether the environmental benefit is truly efficacious.
For example, recent studies have concluded that corn-based ethanol production and transport may in fact leave a total net carbon footprint nearly as large as finite petroleum use. Clear-cutting of forests for ethanol corn crops adds to the increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, thus exacerbating the global warming problem.
What is becoming clear is how rapidly the energy crisis is coming upon us. According to basic economics, the recent rise in gasoline prices signals an increase in global demand of a finite energy source that one day will run out. Though at the time this article was written gasoline prices had come down significantly, this represents only a short-term breather until the world economy (and thus demand) picks up once again.
But even before the taps run dry, market forces and politics may spell the end of the oil age and (hopefully) the beginning of the age of renewable energy. However, many analysts are predicting a somewhat rocky transition period from one age to the next.
Don’t start stocking food and supplies just yet, but most certainly do educate yourself on renewable energy such as solar and wind. Because if we can’t innovate new ways to power our economy, we’re in a major bind until we discover a viable alternative to oil.
It is precisely why we need an alternative energy source, or more likely a viable mix of renewable energy sources, in our world today.