Ditching Gas

Now that gas prices are on the rise again, I’m sure everyone is once again thinking about ways they can save money.  Nevermind that we should have done something while the prices were low.  Big oil sure knows how to keep us hooked.  I’m probably going to start taking the bus to work a few days a week & see how that goes.  I’m a little skeptical how well it’s going to work because my hours at the office vary greatly.

I’ve already started falling back into my old thoughts of selling my truck in favor of a more fuel efficient vehicle.  I haven’t done it in the past because my truck is paid for, has had absolutely no mechanical problems, and is very handy to have when you need to move stuff around or for weekend projects.  If I sold the truck & got a small car, what happens when I need a truck?  Rent one?  All of a sudden those little savings from gas prices take a hit.

Then I started focusing on the real problem… our dependency on oil as our primary fuel source.  Assume for a second that there existed a perfect alternative fuel source that could directly replace oil.  Battery power has it’s issues (batteries wear out & are very expensive to replace), Hydropower isn’t reasonable (water costs more than gas), Nuclear power makes everyone uneasy because they don’t want to blow up or die of radiation poisoning (:rolls eyes:).  But let’s imagine for a second that there does exist a perfect alternative & most likely it would mean a different type of automobile.  Would everyone automatically switch to it?  I think not.  Why?

For the alternative to take over as our primary fuel source, a lot of things have to change.  Let’s assume the source needs to be replenished occasionally, as no fuel source yet is self-sustaining.  So, we’ll need recharging/refueling/replenishing stations for the new source & we’ll need a lot of them.  There are a few vehicles that run solely off of battery power, yet I see absolutely no battery charging stations to compliment the gas pumps at convenience stores.  That means if I wanted to get a battery powered car, I have to be very careful how I plan my trips to make sure I can get back home, otherwise I’m walking.

The biggest change, however, will hit Americans where it hurts the most… their wallet.  Here’s what I mean by that.  If an alternative fuel vehicle were to become mainstream in America, our existing gas powered vehicles will become worthless.  Our automobiles are one of our most valuable assets, and it is not one that a person is willing to see devalued to nothing.  Right now, a person is willing to buy a battery powered vehicle only because they can sell the gas powered vehicle they own for it’s book value & recover some of the cost.  What if none of the cost could be recovered?  If an alternative fuel source vehicle were to take over, demand for gas powered vehicles will drop, and in such, their valuation will drop as well.  A lot of people will not be happy about that.  All of a sudden, that extra $20 at the tank every week doesn’t seem so high, does it?

I think we do need to end our dependency on oil, I’m just not sure how it can happen.  Not too long ago, the US government tried an initiative that offered people an incentive to trade their gas guzzlers for more fuel efficient vehicles, and I think they offered a $2000 credit or something like that.  I also think that initiative wasn’t very effective.  I don’t personally know anyone who traded in.  And that was nowhere near as radical of a change as changing fuel sources.

I started thinking back to how we made the change to oil in the first place.  I believe our previous method of transportation was horse.  I won’t count public transportation because that didn’t belong to any one person, or not everyone had their own, so coal is out.  Most likely, the reason people were willing to adopt automobiles in place of their horses is because their horse was still worth something afterwards because it could still do things an automobile couldn’t.  It was a slow transition to automobiles, but it was one that was easy to make & it did not have any (or much) negative effect on  a person’s net worth.

The problem now is, the Industrial Revolution is over.  People don’t have a big enough reason to make a big change in their lifestyle.  They’re certainly not willing to take a $15k hit to their wallet to do so.  What’s it going to take?