The Future of Cars - Part 2

Peak oil editor Tom Whipple continues his series on the future of the private automobile in the post-petroleum age.

Published: 31-Jan-2008

By Tom Whipple

Within the next ten years the size, shape, efficiency, fuel and numbers of private automobiles is going to undergo a radical change. The nine million gallons of gasoline we currently use in the U.S. each day simply will not be available in the quantities desired at any price. If a transition to a more abundant fuel source than gasoline and diesel does not take place on a widespread basis before the shortages begin, there will be troubles. It is virtually certain that at some point the government will have to impose rationing that will keep functions vital to our society such as food, water, utilities and public safety functioning. The rest of us are going to have to find alternative means of transportation.

The solution to this problem is likely to be a much more diverse set of vehicles and modes of transportation than we have become accustomed to in the last 100 years of the automobile age. Despite their terribly low efficiency, the automobiles we now enjoy are incredibly flexible machines that can take us comfortably and inexpensively down the block or across the country in nearly all kinds of weather. In some forms the personal car could not only carry us, and a goodly number of friends or relatives, but also an incredible amount of stuff. As gasoline has nearly always been cheap and plentiful few gave a second thought to using a 4000 pound vehicle to transport a 150 pound person many miles to buy a pack of cigarettes at who-cares-how-few miles per gallon.


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