One of the useless things I learned at high school was the story of King Canute placing his throne to the beach (or at least, hiring a deckchair) and commanding the tide not to come in, to show the people that he had power over the sea (Or to show them he didn’t. Accounts vary). Either way he got wet feet. Unfortunately, the ‘Canute Method’ of Government seems to be back in fashion and it’s our very own government who are leading the way down to the seaside with their ‘Scrapping Premium’. As I’ve mentioned before this brilliant idea is that if you have a car over nine years old that you’ve owned at least a year you can scrap it, buy a new one and the Government will give you €2500 towards the cost. And you thought socialism was dead.
Now it appears the governments of Europe are all getting out their buckets and spades and heading off for the political seaside, none more enthusiastically than in the UK where the government is always on the lookout for ways to throw money at motorists. Apart from the silliness of encouraging people to destroy perfectly good cars, buy new ones, and then claim it is ‘for the Environment’ (I did not make that up) the ‘Business as usual’ mantra of the modern day Canutes misses one rather important point, namely that if we stay fixed to a car (read: ‘oil’) based transport system, we are simply delaying the inevitable. Oil is running out, and ‘Peak Oil’, the point at which demand begins to exceed supply, is no longer just being muttered amongst pot-smoking yurt dwellers, but is becoming a common phrase amongst amongst economists and transport planners. Their consensus: cheap oil is a thing of the past, the price dropped wit demand as the recession hit, but there are concerns that this recession is merely a dress rehearsal for what happens later when the demand for oil from recovering global economies sends prices soaring. One businessman has already said that Americans could face paying ten dollars for a gallon of petrol. What looks like a turning tide could in fact be a Tsunami over the horizon.
Canute gave up trying to turn the tide, and moved on. Instead of playing with sandcastles the governments and car builders could be working together to make a transport network for the future, where people don’t have to rely on cars. They won’t of course: they will just present a make believe future of cars running on batteries while making ever more gas guzzlers, but while they do, the grown-ups can be planning ahead. There are lots of very useful books and and blogs with practical ideas for changing our lifestyles in the face of a possible future there oil is very expensive indeed. I’m not talking about building a fortress in the wilderness and eating mushrooms, more making adjustments to wean us off depending on oil, directly or indirectly. As a family we’re looking at the possibilities, and I’ll probably blog about that as and when it happens. We’re already discovering that life gets richer when we just make a start.
Ironically I expect a lot of people will call us ‘prophets of doom’, but it beats sitting on a beach and shouting at the waves.