As the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey unfolds and we get a clearer picture of the devastation left behind, one issue that’s emerging is that of gas shortages. As of yesterday, several news outlets have begun to report that extreme price gouging and massive lines are just some of the problems cropping up. This is compounded all the more because as the flood waters recede, more and more people are going to want to travel back into the affected parts of Houston, where inevitably there will be no functional gas stations whatsoever.
The shortages around the outlaying areas of Houston are said to be partially due to panic, as rushes on gas stations unprepared for a sudden spike in volume have been left without recourse. As what typically happens in emergency situations, critical resources can disappear in the blink of an eye. As scared Texans scramble to fill up their tanks, power generators, and make their way back to what’s left of their homes, one can’t help but wonder, when are we finally going to move past these antiquated kinds of fuel?
The very first gasoline-powered cars arose in the 1880s. We’ve essentially been relying on the same technology for 140 years. It’s been refined, repacked, and vastly improved upon, but the reality is, we’re being forced to rely on technology that was invented before the Titanic sank. While much of the rest of our technology evolves exponentially, it seems we just can’t get away from fossil fuels.
The Flaws of Relying on Gasoline
This should go without saying, but despite the facade that we are given on a daily basis via the cushy wonders of modern society, gasoline is an extremely limited resource, and is only going to get more and more scarce as we continue to barrel toward a 9 Billion strong population by 2040. Couple that with an increase in severe storms and natural disasters brought about by climate change, and you have the perfect recipe for what we are seeing unfold at this very moment in Texas.
This isn’t some kind of hypothetical situation or some kind of “doomsday” scenario meant to scare people into giving up their creature comforts. We can be sure of two things heading into the 2020s: there will be less available oil on the planet than there is today, and more people will be fighting over it. Unless we take massive strides right now to curb fossil fuel emissions and animal agriculture, you can add more devastating storms and flooding to the mix as well.
This is an untenable situation. If you think what happened in Houston last week was bad, you should know that much worse devastation occurred on the other side of the globe. Monsoon-related storms this past week have killed more than 1400 people and have displaced tens of thousands, besides creating untold millions worth of property damage. Needless to say, in the countries that lack the infrastructure and resources of places like the United States, reliance on extremely limited substances like gasoline is perilous. When people’s lives are on the line, we can’t expect modern day results from 1880s technology.
Might sound harsh, but it’s the reality. One that we’re all going to have to start facing if we want to create sustainable cities and transit systems that can handle the rigors of a burgeoning population and intense climate disasters.
There Are Viable Alternatives
We have the ability already to completely circumvent these kinds of issues, but the problem is, we’re stuck with incompetent leadership where it matters most. So much time and money in our society is being directed into places that are, by and large, meaningless.
While some would like it if we could somehow roll back time itself and return to the planet circa 1900, that’s not going to happen. There are millions of cars and other vehicles that all need fuel, and oil wells around the world are depleted, to say nothing of the environmental hazards they cause. That fuel won’t mean anything if the entire ecosystem begins to collapse. We have to take a hard look at what’s really important and where our money is going to.
It’s possible to run cars off of everything from vegetable oil to water, as well as good old electricity. But those ideas don’t sit well with people that are in the business of oil. There is so much misinformation out there regarding alternative fuels, even those who should know better end up being duped. Imagine, however, a crisis like Harvey where fueling your car isn’t a problem, because it runs on an abundant source of energy?
Sure, it’s not like there are riots or anything going on over the shortage, and the situation down there is supposedly set to stabilize in another week or two, but what if a situation such as the one that hit South East Asia hit the United States? What’s going to happen when the population here is pushing 600,000,000 and gasoline is twice as scarce as it is now, even on a good day?
These aren’t crazy far-flung hypotheticals, but sure-fire realities we will all be facing in the coming decades. The question is, will we have the leadership and foresight to rise to the challenge and start getting these primitive cars off the road, in exchange for something more sustainable? We can’t wait around for the answer, though. We’re going to have to manifest this reality ourselves.
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