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Rising petrol costs

Thundery wintry showers


My view on the rising petrol costs is that if current trends continue, regrettably, we may miss a good opportunity.

At the moment, a lot of people feel they "have" to drive (especially for work) primarily because there is no decent alternative. Provide a decent alternative, and many (not all, but many) of them will use it. There are also many instances of people driving around the corner just for "convenience" when they wouldn't really lose anything if they just walked or cycled. School runs can be shared or even avoided in some cases. In addition, if only there was more effort going into cleaner fuels, people would be encouraged to use them.

Under the above kind of scenario I could see rising petrol costs helping to spearhead a mainly positive outcome. For the most part, the people who don't enjoy driving get the chance to cut down, while the people who enjoy driving get to continue doing what they enjoy, the environment benefits, and while certain people lose out (primarily people whose work or condition makes it physically near-impossible to use alternatives to the car) most people gain. More sociable use of cars, with people taking passengers with them who contribute to the cost of the petrol.

Unfortunately, current trends are not in that direction. Instead, I can see recreational aspects of driving being marginalised. As it becomes more known that oil is becoming scarce and we need to cut down car use, in conjunction with the popular view that pleasurable things are "unnecessary", as in nobody "needs" to enjoy themselves, I can see pleasure driving becoming socially unacceptable. In addition, when an activity is frowned upon it's usually frowned upon most when it's pleasurable. The social and recreational benefits "don't come into it". So I expect little effort towards reducing the need for people to drive for work, school runs etc, leaving most people with no choice but to cut down on their recreational use of cars.

There are other reasons for the emphasis on cutting out recreational aspects of driving. One is the policy of making driving unattractive relative to the alternatives in the hope that it might put enough people off driving to reduce traffic, which might make the alternatives more attractive (i.e. bring in the stick and hopefully the carrot will create itself). Plus the notion that restricting recreational aspects of driving is a necessary evil to legislate for the few idiots that abuse it (take current policy on speeding for example).

The current trends might still give us more positives than negatives, but nothing like as positive as the scenario I envisaged above. Instead, it looks like it's primarily the people who most enjoy driving who will be forced to cut down, while the people who hate driving will have to continue driving because there's still no alternative. It reeks of a missed opportunity- though we aren't quite there yet. If we can somehow engineer changes to the current trend, there's still time to gravitate towards the former scenario.


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