Consumerism Politics and activism

What’s that got to do with the price of petrol?

I filled up with petrol on Sunday night. $1.05 per litre, and that was with the 4 cpl supermarket discount.

Don’t count on prices dropping any time soon. OPEC admit they have no control over oil prices, with demand continuing to outstrip supply. And of course world demand continues to climb as developing countries embrace the motor car, and most governments in the western world continue to ignore more efficient solutions to transport needs.

Locally, the RACV from time to time calls for a removal of some of the taxes on fuel. I don’t see that working. A temporary retail price drop would only increase demand… and of course too much demand is precisely the problem.

Will production be able to rise, or has the last of the cheap oil fields been depleted, as per the Peak Oil theory? If the direst of predictions come true, western economies are in for a helluva jolt.

What we really need to do is give people alternatives to consuming oil. But what would convince people to cut their driving? Petrol price doubling overnight and twice as many trains, trams and buses running? Neither will happen of course. If anything happens, it will be gradual change.

Bah, what can you do? Well, a friend who recalls the (created by OPEC) oil shortages of the 70s gave me the idea of leaving my car unused at least one day a week. I don’t do a heap of driving, but it can’t hurt to curb it further. So I left my car alone and unloved on Saturday, and gave my legs and my yearly Metcard a bit of exercise instead. Not bad — I’ll see if I can keep it up.

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By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

9 replies on “What’s that got to do with the price of petrol?”

I know this isn’t widespread, but major car manufacturers (VW, Fiat, GM, Ford) in South America make cars that can run both on gasoline and on ethanol (alcohol), or any mixture of them. I’m told that alcohol is slightly more corrosive and delivers slightly less power, but the engines compensate for it (electronic fuel injection has to be one of the wonders of technology). Alcohol is some 30% cheaper than gasoline at current prices, I believe, and it can be found in gas stations anywhere in Brazil and parts of neighbouring countries.

And the cars are mostly low-cost, low-power (around 1000cc, 50 to 100kw or so) models.

In Canada, more vehicles are being powered on ethanol every year. Our prices are slightly lower than yours. They are currently about 85 to 90 c per litre in Eastern Canada and about 5 to 10 c lower out in the western provinces. But a little over a year ago the prices were consistently about 50 c per litre! Quite the dramatic increase! So, as the fuel charges rise, so does the bus ridership and bicycles. With the snow on the melt here (hurray!) we’ll see a lot more commuters this year on bikes/rollerblades, I’d guess. Yes, by all means, leave that car parked. Better for you, the person and your wallet and the environment. We pushed for a sidewalk into town near our house and got it! So I use it whenever possible

Deb/Toria in Canada

I’m about to buy my very first Yearly MetCard! Wah~!

Any el quicko tips and/or advice? ^_^


Yes, if you’re paying the retail price… PTUA are about to start selling discounted yearlies. Example: Zone 1 Yearly retail is $1026. PTUA will sell it to you (with bundled PTUA membership for a year) for about $950.

Cheap bundle deal? Yay~! ^_^

Um… is this plan coming soon with a set date, or is this one of those “In the works” things? I searched the PTUA website and couldn’t find anything, other than a “Like Cheap Tickets?” reference to a not-downloadable newsletter. I mean, I can wait a week or so, but after that…

(Sorry for the one-to-one comments, but I looked and I looked and I couldn’t find your email address anywhere on the site.)

There are no alternatives to cheap oil, except a good old bicycle. The problem with ethanol is that it takes two barrels of oil to make one barrel of ethanol after you take into account the crude used in agriculture, from pesticides to tractors. Ethanol, in places like Brazil, is viable only if the world oil price is cheap.

There is no solution to oil demand due to supply limits, the problem is endemic: so many people (mostly economists) think that humankind are super-beings – because we had the luck to score a cheap energy source for 150 years – that they’re convinced we will always have cheap energy. But when peak oil hits it will be like Roger Ramjet without proton pills; Bananaman without bananas; He-Man without his sword; Captain Planet without the planet, I guess you get the picture…

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