With another Mideastern conflict looming, many Americans are worried about the possibility of rising gas prices. But as Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Tom Springer points out, using less gas may be difficult for a generation that grew up admiring gas-guzzlers:
With another Mideastern conflict looming, many Americans are worried about the
possibility of rising gas prices. But as Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Tom
Springer points out, using less gas may be difficult for a generation that grew up admiring
It’s been 20 years since I rumbled through town in a fast car with wide tires and a big
hood scoop. But there, parked in front of me, was the mag-wheeled embodiment of a
teenage fantasy. Its electric blue paint job was flashing in the sun. It was more temptation
then a recovering car freak could resist.
The object of my affection was a 1970 Plymouth GTX. For two years, my brother-in-law
had worked nights and weekends to restore the old muscle car. Under the hood was a
gleaming V-8 engine, with enough horsepower to pull out tree stumps. And now, on a flat stretch
of country road, he casually asked the question: “Do you want to see what it can do?”
Did I want to see what it could do? It was an act of hypocrisy that no self-respecting
environmentalist should ever commit. Since my drag racing days, I’ve learned the truth
about the evils of fossil fuel. I know that America’s car culture is the driving force behind
urban sprawl, acid rain and the ongoing rift with a certain mustachioed Mideastern
But after about three seconds behind the wheel, my environmentalist notions flew out the
window. I stomped the accelerator, and the tires squealed. The engine roared. The
carburetors gulped down an ocean of high-octane racing fuel. Then, for a glorious
moment, the long-forgotten thrill of intense acceleration. The hormone rush was almost
enough to bring my adolescent acne out of remission.
We later drove the GTX to a car show. The hot rods on display were mainly pre-1971
gas-guzzlers. They get about 12 miles per gallon in city driving. Oddly enough, that’s
about the same mileage as a monster sports utility vehicle. The difference is, most
collector cars are driven only on sunny weekends.
And 35 years from now, we may be doing the same thing with SUVs. I can picture the
scene on a fall day in 2037. I’m with my grandchildren at an SUV collectors meet. The
kids are staring in disbelief at these mammoth, 8-passenger vehicles, which rarely carried
more than two or three passengers. And the only thing they can think to say is… “Why?”
The world’s not making any more oil, so our day of reckoning is coming. Some
Americans may think that dollar-fifty per gallon gasoline is their birthright. Yet it won’t
last forever. Fuel cells, electric cars and hybrids are the future of human mobility.
Americans like me, who neither car pool nor take the train, will have to change.
But change may be difficult. Because for my generation, the rich exhaust of an untamed
V-8 will always be like a rare perfume. And our memories of cheap gasoline, and the
freedom of an open road, will only grow fonder with age.
Tom Springer is a freelance writer from Three Rivers, Michigan.