“The Future’s A Gas,” joshes a column headline from an August issue of last year’s Economist. It continues, “Even as headlines scream about $50 a barrel oil, energy firms and their investors are becoming increasingly excited about its likeliest replacement: liquefied natural gas (LNG).” Even if LNG is the future of energy technology, it does not solve the immediate dilemma that faces the United States: the impact of steadily rising costs of gasoline on the motorist.
For those of you who have never driven a car, think that Metro is somehow a fun and effective means to get from A to B, or even find the concept of voyaging beyond the confining embrace of all that is urban to be just a little frightening, please disregard this column. You are in the good company of the Economist writers who have doubtlessly forsaken the expense of cars and have chosen instead to ride the antiquated Tube in order to get to and from their St. James office.
For a majority of Americans, however, our reliance on the automobile for transportation is absolute. The very design of most of our cities and their sprawling suburban extremities was based on the use of the automobile. The vast open countryside can only be accessed by car. How else would you visit your folks in Burnt Chimney, Va.?
The automobile remains the most effective and cheapest mode of transportation available to most Americans. Yet the rising prices of petrol that will pass the unfathomable European-like expense of $2.50 a gallon threatens our mobility.
Consider the transportation options of GW students from New England. There are four real options for them to return home: a) fly at $100+ each way, b) take Amtrak for similar money and twice the journey time, c) a bus that will get them within 15 miles of their hometown given a full day of travel, or d) drive.
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA) website’s handy trip cost calculator, a roundtrip drive from Hartford, Conn. to the Capital in a Honda Accord is still a reasonable $57.14. For our more well-traveled piers, the same trip in a Porsche Cayenne is $88.86 (though I would round to $100 as I doubt the website factors for premium or heavy right feet). Would these prices be as palatable at twice the current price?
As we near the summer, forecasters are bracing the public for gas prices at more than $3 per gallon. It is times like these that I wish our president would call on his useful oil connections for our benefit. Relying on public transportation is not an option in this country and if the price of oil is going to continue to rise, we need a new alternative fuel source with the accompanying infrastructure fast.
When my girlfriend asks me how I think she should make the journey to see her next week, I am going to tell her one thing: Drive while you still can.
-The writer is a senior majoring in political science.