Five years and several expensive gallons ago

By Dean Smallwood on

Times change quickly, don’t they? It doesn’t seem like that many years ago that Tivo came into our house for the first time, and I still can remember my family’s “oohs” and “ahhs” when the satellite dude that installed it gave us his quick tutorial. Today, the black recorder box is an old phenomenon seemingly no more innovative than the television itself: Whenever we need to leave the house for something like soccer practice, we think “Hey, that show we like is on tonight – let’s record it,” and it’s done with a couple of presses of a button without much thought.

It’s pretty much the same with any other cool technology that’s made it way down the pike over the last 10 years or so, and their evolutions make us scratch our collective heads at the predecessors that came before the gadgets we use today. Pagers gave way to pretty much any form of instant communication. Same with Palm Pilots, iPods, laptops – the past popularity of all of those once-innovative doodads has been superseded by a stronger, faster successor of some type.

It’s the same with any sort of change to our lifestyle beyond technology. What once freaked us out when it happened the first time usually becomes commonplace and greeted with a collected “meh.” After 9-11, airport security tightened, and it was pretty dang inconvenient until frequent flyers became accustomed to the everyday procedure; they simply adjusted their flying rituals to accommodate the stricter standards.

Same with fuel price spikes. Remember 2008? When the cost of a gallon of fuel – which had been growing gradually off and on, but not enough to wig everyone out – suddenly blasted off toward the $5 mark and sparked mass panic, sending folks to fill up wherever they could find prices a few pennies cheaper? Hybrid sales exploded? The trucking industry scurried in a multitude of directions in search of more economical solutions?

So looking back over the last few weeks when the cost of fuel saw another sharp increase – granted, not close to $5, but still enough to raise eyebrows – it seems that we’re all accustomed to the numbers on the fuel station signs changing rapidly, pretty much every day and often many times in the course of a single day. Sure, there was some chatter about it on talk radio and the TV news channels, but judging by the quick reporting of it and then moving on to the next subject, we’ve pretty much accepted that price spikes will happen and probably will remain until a viable fuel alternative arrives.

It’s only been five years, but we seem to be taking it a lot more in stride now. What does that mean for the search for alternative fuels? Not as much motivation to get it done? Or is that work merely out of the limelight until the next really major price spike? Only time will tell.

Dean Smallwood

Dean Smallwood is managing editor of Commercial Carrier Journal and Overdrive. He has more than two decades of journalism experience, with nearly half of that spent covering the transportation industry. Daytime Phone: 800-633-5953, ext. 1039

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