The price of gas has more than tripled during my lifetime. But thatís not even the incredible part.
What I find difficult to believe is that throughout my years there have always been alternatives. Cleaner, cheaper and, in some cases, generally more effective ways of getting around have always seemingly been there.
Iím not speaking of faded blue lines and measurements on rolled up pieces of paper. Nor of perpetual motion machines invented in garages the world over; those all suffer from one fatal design error ó†the blasted wheel always stops spinning.
No, Iím talking about the better technologies already being put to good use.
When I was young and excitedly watching the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) clean up the streets of London, I also nursed a healthy love of cars. Itís been a trend for the males of my family; from Hot Wheels to insurance payments, weíve shared that fascination with the ins and outs of putting power to the pavement.
But what really got my mind racing was the knowledge that our beloved OPPís police interceptor fleet ran on natural gas.
Maybe thatís why Paul McCartney chose to immortalize the force by wearing an OPP badge on the inside cover of Sgt. Pepperís. Probably not, though.
Natural gas is commonly available. Itís cheaper at the pump. The emissions are clean. It doesnít cause nearly as much wear and tear on vehicle parts. What more is there to know?
Converting your auto to barbecue power is such a relatively simple process that it seems to beg the question: why are vehicles designed to run on natural gas so uncommon?
These questions naturally invite a host of common answers, many of which tend to centre on the scalability of alternatives.
Take E85 for example. This fuel mixture that contains 85 per cent ethanol, generally produced from agricultural by-products like corn husks, can be poured into the tank of most modern cars and operated without a hitch. Ethanol burns cleanly, too.
But producing ethanol on a massive scale would place heavy demands on not only the agricultural sector, but the manufacturing one as well. The energy consumed in the production of ethanol could seemingly make it inefficient, a waste of time.
Sounds similar to the types of concerns environmentalists frequently lobby against the oil sands, doesnít it?
Ethanol and natural gas do, however, present us with existing, proven alternatives ó and thereís more.
Whatís that saying about having too much of one thing?
Here on the Coast I was interested to find out that Ross Muirhead, a spokesperson for Elphinstone Logging Focus, has been quietly encouraging people to convert their diesel-powered vehicles to vegetable oil.
Pouring a bottle of canola into your car seems pretty counter-intuitive, but with only a bit of modification, most diesels are up to the task. For Muirhead, it has meant stopping at Coast restaurants for their used cooking oil, rather than draining the bank account at the gas pump.
So can the West give up its addiction to gasoline any time soon? Not likely. But with so many proven alternatives available, it would seem we could at least do a better job of diluting that dependency.
Call it fuel for thought?