photo by theogeo
SEOUL – THE OIL CRUNCH MAY MAKE begrudging environmentalists out of us yet. Though we haven’t quite converted our highways into bike paths, ballooning energy bills and prices at the pump seem to have the world thinking that maybe it’s time to reevaluate our auto culture. A recent story in the SF Chronicle says that more people are turning down jobs that are far away from home, even if offered better pay, on considering outlays for gas. A few days prior, the NYT reported that suburban life is losing its appeal — if only ’cause it costs more to fill up the Chevy:
Mr. Boyle and his wife must drive nearly an hour to their jobs in the high-tech corridor of southern Denver. With gasoline at more than $4 a gallon, Mr. Boyle recently paid $121 to fill his pickup truck with diesel fuel. In March, the last time he filled his propane tank to heat his spacious house, he paid $566, more than twice the price of 5 years ago.
Though Mr. Boyle finds city life unappealing, it is now up for reconsideration.
“Living closer in, in a smaller space, where you don’t have that commute,” he said. “It’s definitely something we talk about. Before it was ‘we spend too much time driving.’ Now, it’s ‘we spend too much time and money driving.’ ”
Ah, yes. The power of the pocketbook. Where footage of drowning polar bears failed to touch our hearts, surely a kick in the wallet shall succeed. Al Gore’s warnings might have been dismissed as left-wing scare tactics, but numbers are harder to refute.
As that hole in the bottom of our bank account grows, so does the our motivation to go green. Over the weekend OPEC President Chakib Khelil said he expects the crude price per barrel to top $170 this summer. About the same time, the government here announced its oil contigency plan (Kr). Should the price of the benchmark Dubai crude shoot past $150, South Korea will begin to more stiffly regulate energy usage in the public sector — including vehicle usage, air conditioning and lighting. In the worst-case-scenario of $170 plus per barrel, the gov will start to make such impositions on the private sector as well.
But one can’t help but wonder: will these changes stick when (or if) the financial pressure lets up? Will we have finally realized that our current lifestyle isn’t sustainable, or will we just settled back into that big old gas-guzzling groove we spent so much time wearing in? Either way, parking will still be a problem.