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'Wasteful Driving'

I’m a little jealous of those who live in cities with good public transportation. I live in California, however, and I must take issue with the idea of "wasteful driving". It’s simply a fact of life here, and I think people in LA will always want their cars. Wasteful driving is basically driving you can’t afford. And that varies greatly person-to-person. I see it as not only being how much money a person makes, but also the ratio of fuel cost to total cost of driving.

EXAMPLE A:With an old clunker that gets 8mpg, filling the 25 gallon tank at $3.00/gallon might cost $75.00, one tenth of total price of the vehicle. Chances are that driver is probably not insured, doesn’t make a lot of money, so they are very sensitive to the price of fuel. Their total cost of driving is in the range of $150/month. If the price went to $15.00/gallon in a worst-case peak oil scenario, their monthly cost of driving would be $750/month–probably equivalent to the value of the car. This person could clearly not afford to drive.

EXAMPLE B: On the other hand, consider a driver of a Prius, with a capital cost of $25,000. Monthly payments are in the $500/month range, with another $200 for insurance. So the cost of fuel (2 fillups/month at $30 each) $60/month is less than 10% of the monthly cost of driving. Even if fuel prices rose to $15.00/gallon, the monthly cost to that Prius driver only goes from $760 to $1000, a 30% increase. I doubt that person would change their behavior much.

So I think lower income people driving wasteful vehicles will be forced to make a change (drive less). But most people who can afford to buy a new car will grumble but continue on with business as usual.

And actually the Prius is a really good option. Mine gets 46MPG (I’ve had it as high as 52MPG for a tank, but I just don’t feel like driving that way. Sorry, doomers….

There are lots of fixes coming on line, from all-electric cars and hydrogen mopeds to plug-in hybrids. These will be adopted as needed, when people get the price incentive.

That’s what it’s all about. Price. Price. Price. People won’t reduce waste because it’s the right thing to do. They’ll reduce it when they have to. And when other less wasteful methods become cheaper and more convenient.

Biodiesel, Fischer-Tropp fuels, TDP fuels, Cellulosic ethanol, bitumen and oil-shale…will never cost as much as $15.00 a gallon to produce. Electricity today costs equivalent to $0.60/gallon. Thow in battery costs, and even at $5.00/gallon, electricity and these other fuels will quickly begin to compete.

People may ride bikes more, but it mostly won’t be because they have to.

Peak oil? High petroleum prices?

Can’t happen soon enough.


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