It’s a touchy subject as some people are *really* hurting due to high gas prices and the oil barons are making more from less, but there have been quite a few benefits environmentally speaking from increased prices of fuel.
Whether it’s speculators, political unrest, peak oil or a combination of all those factors; people are certainly feeling the pinch and in countries such as the USA, Canada, Europe and Australia, using less of the stuff on a per capita basis.
The major benefits include people travelling less, using public transport more and buying more economical vehicles – this means less pollution and less carbon dioxide emissions.
Urban sprawl is also slowing down as increasing numbers of people seek to move closer to the city. People are opting to walk more and this exercise will help address the obesity epedemic.
For those stuck in the outer burbs or with gas guzzlers, they are discovering ways to save fuel.
The higher price of oil is also spurring on investment into alternative energy such as solar power and wind energy.
Agricultural industries are looking towards lessening dependence on fossil fuel for a variety of food transport and production related processes. You may be surprised to learn that fossil fuels are made into fertilizers – it’s basically using fuel as food! As the prices of food increase due to the cost of oil, more people are turning to establishing their own vegetable gardens and cutting meat consumption.
As oil is the base of many plastic products, manufacturers are exploring ways of using less packaging, alternative packaging and in the case of liquid products, looking more towards concentrates as a way of decreasing transport costs.
Telecommuting, that is working from home, is becoming more broadly accepted by many companies; saving travelling time and gas bills for employees.
Time Magazine has an interesting presentation offering some other reasons why expensive gas can be viewed as a positive thing.
It’s certainly an ill wind that blows nobody any good – but unfortunately, even with the impact of sky high oil prices, consumption is still steadily increasing on a global scale and we will still no doubt attempt to milk the last drop of crude possible out of our planet given our current mindset.
This slowdown is buying us time, but precious little of that – oil would need to become phenomenally more expensive very soon to have enough of an impact to see a significant slowing of carbon dioxide levels; not to mention some of the other associated environmental ills caused by fossil fuel. Increasing prices also have some major negative side effects that society will need to tackle.
Oil is our society’s drug of dependence and like many drug addicts, it’s still very possible we will still pursue our abuse of it until it’s too late.