Op-Ed: Twenty Five Years Later….

On Wednesday I turn 25. That is like 1/3 of my total life expectancy. Since I’m not feeling very inspired today (I’m missing that lost hour) I’m going to talk about where the world might be in 25 years.

1) Oil is Still King

Being the adaptable people we are, many Americans have adjusted their lifestyles to the rising costs of oil, and ever increasing fuel standards have forced many people into cramped econocars that deliver upwards of 100 mpg. Most people only refill their vehicles once or twice a month at about $25 a gallon as swelling car usage in India and China has put a premium price on petrol. Peak oil has come and gone, and nobody really noticed.

2) Electric Cars Catch On, Just Not in a Big Way.

Progress on battery technology and range management has meant that many EV’s can travel 300-400 miles before recharging, and new charging technology has meant that a “fill-up” can take as little as ten minutes. However, China’s hold on the rare earth elements necessary to these vehicles, and their own investment in electric vehicles, has meant that battery technology is still prohibitively expensive en masse, and most EV drivers can only afford “lower end” models with a limited range of 150 miles or less. Electric rates go up with demand, and while filling an EV is still cheaper than filling a gas tank, only 20% of the cars on the road run on electricity.

3) America’s Infrastructure Remains Incomplete

Despite pledges of repeal and a perceived lack of interest, the foundation of Obama’s dream of a high speed rail network has been laid, and in some areas it is a huge success. However, a lack of investment and divisive politics has meant that the HSR system is incomplete at best. California’s HSR system is only half done (at twice the original cost) and the Northeast corridor remains functionally outdated. Meanwhile, America’s ancient Interstate system has required a reinvestment of the hundreds of billions of dollars as bridge failures, potholes, and traffic congestion are becoming more commonplace.

4) People Move Back to the Cities Because They Have To

The high cost of getting around has meant more companies making workers telecommute from home, and those that do have to travel to work move as close as the can to their jobs. Walking, biking, and carpooling are more popular out of necessity, and many cities undergo a major revival. People learn to live small, and home ownership remains a pipe dream for most.

5) We Make Our Own Alt-Fuels

Among high costs for gas and EV’s, the idea of making our own fuel and our own alternative-fuel vehicles catches on with many people. From biodiesel to homebrewed electric cars to propane powered muscle cars, many people find it cheaper to make their own transportation then rely on automakers or the government to get around. The “DIY Driver Movement.” The lack of interest in these other fuels has meant the costs are far lower, but most people still lack the ability and willpower to build and fuel their own vehicles.

6) Other Countries Go Their Own Way with Alt-Fuels

The cost of oil has convinced many countries to adopt their own fuel standards. Norway makes hydrogen work, much of England runs on biogas from cows, and Russian vodkars are all the rage. Even Saudi Arabia has embraced a synthetic petroleum as their wells start to run dry.

Honestly, that is all I’ve got. Pretty fun thinking about, and maybe in 25 years when I am wrenching on my propane-powered Mustang, I’ll remember this little article, dig it out, and see what, if any of these predictions came true. How about you guys? Make your own predictions for the world come 2036, and none of this doomsday crap. It’s almost my birthday. Happy thoughts.

Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.

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