A few days ago, when I filled the family flivver up in beautiful downtown Plainwell, MI, a gallon of regular cost $3.99. Here comes $4 gas. Can $5 gas be far away?
My latest gas tab was $52.51. I bought my first car, a 1929 Model A Ford, back in the early 1950s for $50. Even in its old age, the Ford was a dependable vehicle. I drove it for about a year and sold it for $55. Nothing approaching a fifty dollar bill was needed to fill it up. Gas sold for 26 cents a gallon back then.
There were no self-service gas stations, at least where I lived. Attendants pumped your gas to order. They also cleaned your car’s windshield and checked the air pressure in the tires. Those services were free. I don’t recall seeing anyone giving a tip to an attendant, so it’s fair to assume tipping was nonexistent or at least infrequent.
We young bucks often collected nickels, dimes, and quarters from our buddies, bought a “dollar’s worth’” of gas, and spent a long evening “cruising the drag.” That was another way to say we were trying to pick up girls who might be walking down the town’s main street. We weren’t very successful, but we were persistent. We logged a lot of miles.
|Some Model A's Still Cruise|
Transportation costs certainly have escalated, but they’ve not risen equally. At the time I bought my well-used Ford for $50, you could get a nice, new family sedan for $2,000. We bought our nice, new family sedan a few years ago for $21,000. Do the math. The modern machine cost 10.5 times what one went for 60 years ago.
Doing the math for gasoline, we find the price has increased more than 15 times over the same six decades.
Those Canadians, Mexicans, and Nigerians who pump most of the “liquid gold” we use and those Arabs who set the world prices are doing a good job of picking our pockets. Maybe they finally caught on after observing the machinations of wealthy Texas families on television.
Unfortunately, it’s more likely that oil supplies have started a downward spiral throughout the world. We probably are going to see huge price increases as populations continue to explode and industrialization advances to serve the new hordes of people.
Put on your hiking shoes, and get that old bicycle out of the garage. The heyday of the automobile as the centerpiece in American life soon will start fading away. It may be a great time for innovation. Would “cruising the drag” on a bicycle built for two (or even a low-powered motor scooter) prove attractive?
Don’t despair, though. The U.S. has huge coal reserves and recently found ways to extract a whole lot of natural gas. We also are finally fully engaged in developing vehicles powered entirely or mostly by electricity. The future may be brighter than it appears right now.