Petrol prices climbing

Petrol price signPetrol prices are hitting record levels, something that’s been predicted for some time by the Peak Oil people.

On Sunday I took the kids across town to visit their grandad’s/my dad’s place, for his 74th birthday. With my last petrol fill-up costing over $60 (thankfully it’s only about fortnightly), my public transport travel already paid for and cheap Sunday train tickets now available, and his place only a couple of minutes’ walk from Coburg station, I decided we’d take the train. It took about an hour each way — by car would probably be about 45 minutes via the tollway, so it wasn’t too bad, though we had a bit of a wait between connections on the way home… this needs improvement.

Given the wet weather and the chaos in Kingsway (something I got caught in on Saturday afternoon), it was a good way to go. Plus we got to talk, interact, look at things (must get a picture of that very groovy wooden building near Jewell station), and use our feet (if only for a short distance at one end; admittedly at the home end we drove to the station to avoid a downpour of rain). Plus we got to see that most amusing of city-dwellers, the lost Collingwood fan.

I’m probably more inclined than most to consider the public transport option. But as petrol prices are now over a dollar per litre as a matter of course, and still heading upwards, we must be reaching the point where more people who have a choice start to curb their car use.

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.

15 replies on “Petrol prices climbing”

I see people curbing their spending elsewhere before foresaking the freedom and mobility that they percieve they have with a car. But some people will have to stop driving when the price of petrol goes avove $1.24 per litre (predicted price when this current record eventually reaches the consumers).

If only the public transport system was a bit better… then I’d consider using it… but until then, I’ll work one day a week just to feed my driving habit.

Thank god my car’s a lot more economical than my old bomb used to be. I spent a whole weekend puttering around Daylesford and barely even used a third of a full tank – and that was including the drive there from home. However, topping up cost a bundle as they were up to $1.18 at the pump. I used to pay $25 for a full tank… eesh.

I have no problem with using public transport when it’s viable. In fact, I quite like not having to focus on driving. Unfortunatly for me, it’s not often a viable option.
It takes me 25 minutes to drive to uni, and the quickest route I’ve figured out on public transport is 90 minutes. It takes about an hour to drive to my girlfriend’s place. Closer to 2 and a half by PT.

The result is I drive just about everywhere. At least I only have a small car, although its age probably offsets any fuel economy a small car offers.

The problem with expecting that rising petrol prices will force behavioural change is what is sometimes called the ‘boiling frogs’ syndrome.

Apparently, if you place a frog in a container of cold water and then gradually heat it, the frog will happily stay in the container as the temperature rises, until it reaches boiling point and the frog suddenly dies.

The same way, we (with the odd honorable exception) will put up with steadily rising petrol prices (grumbling a bit perhaps) without doing anything to change our behaviour. The real scary question is what will happen at the ‘boiling point’ when huge numbers of people suddenly find they can’t afford to drive to work or to the shops…

One research presentation I have seen suggests that people are oblivious to changes in petrol prices to the degree that serious changes in behaviour won’t happen until the perceived cost of driving increases 7-fold.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. The fact that we are oblivious to small changes means that now is a good time to be *increasing* petrol taxes with the additional revenue can be used to fund development of the alternatives needed (eg improved PT). If we wait until petrol prices are too high for ordinary people to afford, it will be too late.

Here endeth the lesson.

(Longtime reader of your blog checking in here)

In Toronto, gas (sorry, ‘petrol’) is currently around 90-94 Canadian cents per litre (one Australian dollar is around 93c Canadian). In the past six months, it has risen from about 65 c/L. I expect $1/L in Toronto by the northern autumn–it’s already a fact of life on the coasts (Vancouver, Halifax, Iqaluit, etc). See, where you can create a chart that shows historical changes in prices.

I take the bus or train pretty much everywhere, so this hasn’t affected me that much. Yet. I expect rising bus fares sometime soon.

My friends who drive, however, were rather relieved when we changed our plans for Sunday night so that they wouldn’t have to drive their SUV forty kilometres from their suburban place to meet me and take in a movie… We’ll do it another time.

I’ve been reading the lesson above and thinking this is probably a good time for me to learn to ride a bike. Most of my driving is short distances, only 10 – 15 minutes by car and around 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours by PT, taking a bike would only add a few minutes and still beat the bus. Unless the connections improve dramatically the bike will be the way to go.

Your photo is already old. On my way home from pool comp this evening, I noticed that petrol has shot up a full 10c to 123.9c. I topped up at one of the few servos still on 113.9c.

I share Les’ cynicism regarding behavioural change. Canada is a case in point. Their petrol prices aren’t far behind ours (and like us they pay OPEC prices even though they produce a big chunk of their own oil). I was there recently and was absolutely staggered by the number of gas guzzlings SUVs and RVs around. It was very common to see RVs as big as tour buses towing 4WDs as getabouts.

John Carney, I wouldn’t describe the RVs as ‘common’… but then I live in the city, and they may be underrepresented here. Where did you visit in Canada? There are apparwently significant differences across regions: a higher SUV ratio in Alberta, more small cars in Québec, etc. As usual, Canada is halfway between the States and the rest of the world.

Well, the cost of petrol (gas) will have to change some people’s mind, I’d say. It’s got me thinking for sure, about driving vs. walking/riding the bike there. But for my husband, a car is the ONLY option to get him to work. So, pay, pay, pay the price and use the gas for him. C’est la vie in today’s world.

Heard on Neil Mitchell yesterday was mention of petrol at $1.30/l !

This comment was heard while on the 627 bus from McKinnon with two passengers on board!

Research from the Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS) has shown that better access to public transport would provide residents with the income necessary to pay off their housing mortgages up to eight years earlier. Excessive car dependence is clearly trapping residents into a greater level of financial instability.

The oil shocks and resulting recessions of the last seventies and early eighties are testament to the economic damage that is caused by skyrocketing oil prices. The difference now of course is that growth from China and India is fuelling these increases and that supply is unable to be increased to meet this unprecedented demand.

Various ‘solutions’ have been provided to reduce the price of petrol, yet the RACV has failed to understand that the removal of taxation on petrol will do little to stop the adverse affects of further pricing increases.

The fact is that the only way to avoid the adverse effects of petrol increases on consumer income is to reduce the current level of excessive car dependency that currently exists in Melbourne particularly in our outer suburbs.

More is available from–Ensuring-sustainable-transport-mobility

Alex Makin

Well, $1/L petrol has hit Toronto. Less than a week after I first posted to this thread.

What are prices like in Australia now?

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