Thinking Tech

$20 a gallon gasoline: bring it on!

$20 a gallon gasoline: bring it on!

Posting in Cities

Fear not a world with little or no oil for it will spawn innovation and opportunity. That's not to say there won't be pain as we wean ourselves off oil. Author Chris Steiner puts what I have been thinking in his new book "$20 Per Gallon." by John Dodge

Author Christopher Steiner

Author Chris Steiner has taken the glass half fuel view of impossibly high gasoline prices and I like what he has to say.

Steiner whose book "$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives" came out July 15, has resisted the bunker mentality where an oil-less world forces us to retreat into hovels and bring along the guns. Steiner is a civil engineer turned Forbes magazine reporter.

Rather, he sees opportunity in a world weaned off oil. I happened to catch the tail end of his pitch on Boston public radio station WBUR this morning.

"We're talking about cleaner environments, more walkable lives, better public transportation and more vibrant cities. There is little to be scared of. The rising price of gas will unlock countless doors to innovation, opportunity and change," he says in a Q&A on Amazon. Beyond that, fewer miles driven and slower speeds means thousands of lives not snuffed out on America's roadways.

I agree with his progressive vision and wrote a post two years with the headline "Green Engineering Repellent: Cheap Energy" except I got only as far as $5 a gallon gasoline. Bring it on!

But a world with expensive and scarce oil will be painful.

"At $8 a gallon, the airlines close down (now you know why airplane makers like Boeing and Airbus are aggressively pursuing biofuels such as algae). At $10 a gallon, Disney World goes dark. At $14 a gallon, Wal-Mart is done. It can’t afford to ship products," says the WBUR teaser for Steiner's airing on WBUR's On Point show.

Indeed, oil is in everything. The audio book excerpt for his book lays it out in no uncertain terms (I have not read the book, but will...it's available on the Kindle for $9.99).

"It's in bricks in walls, plastics (which can be made from corn in the burgeoning field of bioplastics), asphalt in roads and the synthetic rubber in your ball. Stop what you are doing and look around..at your shoes, shirt, windows and your kitchen. The U.S. imports 67 per cent of its oil, but only 40 per cent goes into our vehicles' fuel tanks. The rest is used to make, shape and fortify just about anything you can imagine," he says.

Folks who lead sustainable lives now will be the most prepared for the era of scarce and expensive oil although he doesn't think $20 a gallon gasoline is imminent. One of my points in yesterday's post about the auto industry's heavy and sudden emphasis on electric vehicles was that I refuse to buy a new car with solely gasoline propulsion. The car piece of the oil-less equation is quickly being resolved although electrics have yet to become mainstream or plentiful.

"People who will do the least amount of adjusting in the future are those who already live more sustainable lives. Buying solar panels for a house at the far edge of the suburbs, for instance, won't alter how the future affects you. Moving to a walkable neighborhood where groceries, your kids' schools, your office or a train are all within several blocks-that's a change you'll profit from and a place where the future will be kinder," he says in the Q&A.

It's back to the future.

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John Dodge

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor John Dodge has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, PC Week (now eWeek), EDN, Design News, Electronic Business, Bio-IT World, Health-IT World, Lowell Sun, Haverhill Gazette and Newburyport Daily News. He is based in Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure