Our Changing World – Bye Bye SUV’s Hello Hybrids

If you stare at the minute hand of a clock you can’t really see it move and yet time continues to march forward. When I look at our society and where it’s going I feel the same way. We’re still being powered by gasoline and coal, two brown fuels that no matter who you listen to are becoming less desirable every day.

I listen to people railing against oil speculators on Wall Street and read emails from fed-up folks wanting Uncle Sam to hand the keys to Alaska over to the petroleum companies. I see people hoping that stabilizing Iraq will lower prices at the pump but I’m not really buying into any of it.

I’ve drank the Peak Oil Kool-Aid, partially because I’ve done some editorial work for the American Petroleum Institute which is the lobbying arm of big oil. If you believe what they say, and I do, oil is getting harder to find and more expensive to bring out of the ground.

I’ve also done work for the power companies and if you believe what they say, and I do, they really don’t want to build more coal-fired power plants. They’d rather have us “conserve” which somehow translates into a dirty word for Americans.

Keep staring at that clock face and you’d think that nothing is happening. Except it is. Right now I’m working on a story about regular people in the DC area who are slapping solar panels on their roofs. They are cutting their energy bills from one third to two thirds of what they used to pay and therefore cutting the amount of coal being burned.

The state of Maryland has just rolled out tax credits and incentives to make it easier for people to switch to solar power. There’s a local contractor who’s rolling the price of PV panels into home equity loans and mortgages. He says when you factor in the savings from your power bills, you come out even. Once things like this start to make financial sense the tide will begin to flow.

Corporate America is already buying in. BP Solar, one of the worlds biggest manufactures of PV panels can’t make them fast enough. Demand is booming and they’re cutting deals with Home Depot for panels to be sold in the stores. Wal-Mart is installing them on top of their big box retail stores. Each panel puts a nail in coal’s coffin.

In the automotive world here’s the big news, GM is in deep do-do. Toyota on the other hand has just announced plans to build another manufacturing plant in the United States to build more Prius. The little-hybrid-that-could has a 10 to 13 week waiting list at local dealerships in DC. Toyota also announced that they are suspending production of their Tundra pick-up and their Sequoia SUV for three months. Sales on the Tundra has fallen 47% and automotive experts believe that if Toyota had another 50,000 Pria laying around they’d be sold instantly.

Lots of experts like to predict what the American public wants from their cars. We like big, fast and powerful machines. Unless they become too expensive to operate at which point we’ll take something that just makes more financial sense. Here’s one more piece of evidence that something is going on behind the scenes. For the first time since 1991 Americans are using less gasoline. Consumption over the past few months has been reduced.

High school economics will tell your that price is a function of supply and demand – to a point. High demand and low supply raises prices. But if prices become too high, they begin to push down demand. Follow the dollars and stop looking at the clock, the world is changing before our very eyes.


Scott Sowers

Our Changing World

Our Changing World


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One Response to “Our Changing World – Bye Bye SUV’s Hello Hybrids”

  1. motp Says:

    hello Scott,

    we are working on a project called “The Last Great American Roadtrip” and will start our journey from 23rd st Hotel Chelsea to the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco. 21 seats will be available to artist of all sorts on the bus which will be converted to bio-diesel engine in california. If interested to volunteer, contribute and ride with us, please visit our blogsite and join our google groups for more info. thanks!


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