Friday, September 26, 2008

Got gas?

Well, the biggest automotive-related story in Atlanta these days doesn't have to do with some hot new sports car, but, unfortunately, with the lack of gasoline in the metro area.

Atlanta obviously is an area that depends heavily on automotive transportation, and to see station after station having no fuel is to watch this city seemingly brought nearly to its knees.

When will things get better?

Hard to say. The experts - those in government and in the energy industry - say things should be looking up within a week, or slightly more.

But even if that's the case, this situation clearly drills home the point that we, as a nation, must somehow lessen our dependence on oil and its byproduct, gasoline.

I've spent some time over the past several days with executives from General Motors and it's clear that they get it.

That company is trying a number of different strategies to lessen our reliance on the traditional fuel methods that have gotten us into this trouble.

I think some of the GM strategies are better than others, but you have to give them credit for trying.

The question now is, are we, the collective American consumer base, ready to do things differently?

I'm not so sure about that one.

Phil Gramm, the former senator from Texas, got into trouble a few months ago for saying that the U.S. is "a nation of whiners."

Sure, high gas prices suck, and for a nation that is in a recession (whether the "experts" declare it one or not), they are an especially crippling blow.

But anyone who has paid attention over the past several years has heard the warnings that fossil fuels wouldn't last forever.

So why would we just keep consuming them as if they would - buying bigger and bigger trucks and SUVs and not adjusting our driving habits?

If we as consumers had demanded - really, truly, loudly, forcefully demanded - automakers to address fuel consumption several years ago, we probably wouldn't be in this mess we're in now, certainly not to this extent.

So, the true test would be for gas prices to actually fall significantly, to, say, $2.50 a gallon over a sustained period.

Would Americans then go back to the showrooms and start snapping up big trucks and SUVs again?

If so, we would deserve whatever we would get in the future in terms of outrageously high gas prices and, yes, shortages.

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