Four Bucks a Gallon! You’re in the Game Now, Buddy Boy
By Alex Ricciuti
Well, it’s finally here. Gasoline in the US is now 4 dollars a gallon. Although pump prices always spike this time of year as the summer driving season begins, there is also that small matter of oil going for like 650 bucks a barrel or so. So, the safe bet is to get used to it. It’s not likely to get better soon. Most evidence actually points to it getting far worse.
US consumers have had inexpensive gasoline for a long time. Prices in Europe right now are above 8 dollars a gallon. But, of course, the market here has always been adjusted to high fuel costs and the current crisis probably doesn’t represent a paradigm shift like it does in the United States. In Europe, anything above a 2 liter engine is considered big.
The US market has begun adjusting in a fairly radical way. The Ford F-150, the defining vehicle of the American automotive industry, is no longer the country’s biggest seller. That honor now goes to the Toyota Camry, followed by the Honda Accord – two well-built, extremely reliable mid-sized sedans. The Detroit 3 have been avoiding taking that hint for far too long. The consequences are crashing down upon them now.
But there is also something exciting going on here. The energy of the moment is palpable. Alongside that sense of apprehension at not knowing exactly what is coming also comes an anticipation for it. There is the possibility of improvement here.
Looking back at the last year or so, I realize how much less driving I’ve been doing, despite my occupation. Even when I test a vehicle I don’t rack up the miles like I used to and try to get things done quicker and less painfully for the environment. As for my own car, I often leave it parked and walk or take public transportation. When I do take it, it’s for short commutes to go shopping or visit friends who live outside the city.
This isn’t something that I’ve done with any amount of deliberateness. I just did it without thinking much about it. And not only do I not miss hopping into the car 8 times a day, I’ve come to realize that, with some Zen-like effect, the walking coupled with the psychological reward for my non-polluting ways has reduced my stress levels somewhat.
It’s like this dream I once had. I’m in a parlor with a group of eccentric people. Three of them are sitting at a table playing cards. One of them, an older gentlemen, asks me to sit and play. I don’t know what the game is and I’m not even sure what the stakes are but a sense of excitement takes hold of me and I can’t wait to play. I feel like whatever happens, things will never be the same again. But somehow, I’m not worried at all. It’s going to be a wild ride but it’s going to be fine in the end.
Alex Ricciuti is a freelance writer and automotive journalist based in Zurich, Switzerland. He writes frequently for Automotive News Europe. He also blogs on all things automotive at eurocarguy.blogspot.com.
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