The Null Device

Dispatches from the oil crunch

With the continuing rise in oil prices, some are saying that the age of cheap flights is over, as airlines raise their prices and/or collapse. Think about the implications of that for a moment: historic Eastern European town centres empty of drunken Britons, speculators unable to flog second homes on the Bulgarian Riviera to Ryanair junkies from Gillingham, people actually packing onto trains to go from, say, London to Manchester (and Britain's chronically underfunded railway infrastructure creaking under the weight of the extra patronage). As for bargain shopping in New York, forget it: if you want to see New York, your best bet may be to buy an Xbox 360 and Grand Theft Auto IV. Perhaps the end of the age of cheap travel will finally usher in the Stay-At-Home Century, when tomorrow's people will range as far from their homes as their mediæval peasant ancestors, instead communicating through broadband links.

Meanwhile, General Motors is shutting down four plants that make its Hummer SUV, which for a long time embodied the ugly side of the American Dream. This is after gasoline (that's petrol to the Europeans/Australians reading this) reached $4 a gallon (incidentally, breaking the mechanical pumps at some older gas stations, whose designers never envisioned a gallon of gasoline costing more than $3.99), and dealerships are having trouble moving the hulking behemoths. Perhaps soon we will hear an old joke about Eastern Bloc cars being repurposed?

And still in America, CNN is now running articles about whether the age of the railroads has returned. (Mostly in reference to Europe and Asia as the paragons of modernity.)

There are 2 comments on "Dispatches from the oil crunch":

Posted by: Greg Sat Jun 7 11:11:26 2008

I'm wondering what petrol prices will do to Australian real estate prices. My guess is that the inner city will continue its recent price-rise-to-the-stratosphere (eg, a tiny terrace over the road from me in Carlton is selling this week for a million dollars), while the outer suburbs will decrease in value. There has already been a drop this year, but that may be due to interest rate rises. My feeling is that the price drop due to oil hasn't really started, and that it will be long and slow - at least five or ten years. Next question: will those of us who can no longer afford to live in the inner city create artist colonies in the outer suburbs? Given our car-free future, what would they be like? I'm guessing taking our amps to Fitzroy to play gigs won't be affordable. Maybe we'll all move to Adelaide.

Posted by: the graf von zep Sun Jun 8 05:53:26 2008

Age of railroads? Age of zeppelins!