Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Relic In The Garage

I read today that the French oil giant TOTAL is planning to close nearly 10% of their 5000 gas stations in France, wherein the rural drivers and residents would be the most affected. Over the next two years, they intend to concentrate their stations along major highways and industrial/commercial areas.

Sounds a lot like what has been happening in America lately.

The action is being taken partly to comply with new environmental rules. Rules that include a minimum setback from a major roadway, so I imply that the gas pumps set a little too close to the road. The smaller, rural stations probably more so which makes them an easy target.

In America, we are apparently consolidating our gas stations into larger, self serve convenience markets along the major arterials and Interstates and removing them from downtowns and neighborhoods. With the coming lifestyle changes, following the realization of peak oil and the skyrocketing price/limited availability of gas, many people may be left in a lurch. Our transit systems don’t serve them and they cannot serve themselves.

I can remember growing up, that within a several block radius of home, there were numerous gas stations. Five around the intersections of Main St/Walton and Main St/Ashland, six in the Chevy Chase shopping area and four or five more just east of the railroad as it crossed Main St. (now the Main/Vine/Midland intersection). Almost all of them are gone now, replaced by the self serves and definitely none of the personalized care of the old days. I used to be able to walk to any of them, buy a few gallons of gas and then take the lawnmower out to cut a few yards. You can’t do that these days.

Once we have used up all the easily retrieved, cheap oil and gasoline I wonder who will get the then available supply. Will it be the transit services or the police/fire folks? How close will the transit get to your cul-de-sac or large lot McMansion in the suburbs? Will you have to walk far to the stop? Is the concept of all electric vehicles, affordable to all, a viable one?

Mrs. Sweeper has asked how we will get to the store for food but the better question is, “How will the food get to the store?” or “How will it get off the farm?” I believe that the people living in the suburbs will see a tremendous change in their lives but the rural residents and our farming community will be facing the most serious impact. We feel that we are now living a comfortable walking or biking distance from a store and the rest is available by transit, although there is room for improvement. Many of our friends and family are not so lucky.

As for that lawnmower of old, how many like it will end up as relics in the garage along with the other yard tools? And will the garage be a relic also?

1 comment:

Ahavah Gayle said...

I wouldn't be so quick to count out the garage just yet - they are the home business and walkable storefronts of the future. Not quite as pretty as the European shops with the family living quarters on the second and third floors, but they are a reasonable alternative. I think you are on target when you say that grocery stores and chain stores won't have as many products as they used to have - a lot of fuel will be allocated for food service and delivery, of course, but even though the post office is dwindling now, there may be a robust future for parcel shipping due to a necessary increase in internet ordering, too. The rest of the fuel will have to go to government services such as fire departments, ambulances, police, border patrol, and utility maintenance/repair trucks. Less and less will be allotted to private automobiles until finally almost none is. What will spring up is walkable local home businesses who will make some things (especially things you don't want to wait to have or need to try on), and the internet will supply bulk or wholesale or items you don't need right away (because shipping isn't going to be as fast as it used to be - they will need to implement uber strategies to increase efficiency and decrease fuel usage - that means deliveries will no longer be "first come first serve" but rather be carefully planned to not visit far flung burbs, etc., more than necessary). Consumerism as we know it will be a thing of the past, but vast cottage industries in garden produce and things that can be made from it: not just plain produce but herb/veggie products such as personal care items including lotions, soaps, etc. Other home businesses will include arts and crafts such as pottery and baskets, household goods sewed by hand, metalworking, woodworking, etc. Pret-a-porte (ready to wear) clothing may become very expensive or difficult to obtain, as chain stores die on the vine due to unwieldy transportation costs. A wonderful variety of small eateries could be offered - all sorts of ethnic and traditional foods. And of course, services will become smaller and more focused on specific neighborhoods - neighborhoods will be small towns in miniature. Since most transit is not electric, it will be more expensive and less available as a result of peak oil. Telecommuting may become much more prevalent, too. People will simply not be able to go much farther than they can walk or bike for a large chunk of the day - transit may be limited to a narrow range of late morning to early evening "business" hours and then be unavailable. This is the future we should be ready for - no miracle is going to replace private automobiles, or make petroleum based bus and trolley systems more affordable to run. But it's hardly a terrible future.