A worrying report on the future of petrol prices is out today. It predicts petrol could hit $10 a litre in a decade. Nearly all of that increase will be caused by the supply of oil falling as demand pressure grows.
Rationing will probably be introduced before that point, otherwise only the rich will be able to get fuel for their vehicles and the whole economy will suffer from a working class that can’t afford to get to work but, either way, with petrol at $10 a litre, Transmission Gully and Waterview Tunnel will be, as the Greens’ Russel Norman says, ‘modern day Easter Island statues’.
This report tells us quite clearly that current patterns of travelling by private vehicle will be unaffordable for most within a decade. There is no hope that alternative fuels can be available on the necessary scale in time (currently, hybrids make up only a couple of percent of new car sales and materials for the batteries are in short supply already). Two responses need to be begun now, before it’s too late: a massive investment in public transport and a shift to building new, low-energy housing developments designed to minimise the need to commute and provide alternatives to driving. There is also a need to consider the massive increase in electricity demand that a shift to electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles caused by petrol prices will cause and where the generation capacity is going to come from.
It’s worth noting that this report was based on data through to March, when the price of a barrel of oil was $115US. Last week, it hit $145US.