A new book by Evanston, Ill.-based engineer and journalist Christopher Steiner explores how society would respond if gas reached $20 per gallon, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Steiner’s book, $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better, is an optimistic look at a world no longer ruled by petroleum. In writing the book, he research what would change as gas prices increased from where they are now to $6 and all the way up to $20, consulting experts in energy, economics and agriculture.
“Weaning ourselves from gasoline isn’t a scary thing, it’s an exciting thing,” Steiner, 32, an energy and technology writer for Forbes magazine told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We’re talking about cleaner environments, more walkable lives, better public transportation and more vibrant cities.”
Steiner argues that civilization as we know it is based largely on petroleum, and while the economy may be keeping oil prices low now, when things get better, gas prices will rise again, he said.
Steiner depicts a future world where suburbs far from city centers turn to slums of decaying middle class homes, because no one will have the gas money to drive much. Neglected downtown areas, such as those in Detroit and St. Louis will revive because people want to live within walking or transit distance to work, shopping and culture. High-speed rail will connect cities.
Steiner also pictures more fresh, locally grown produce, because it will be too costly to ship fruit in trucks from California.
He also predicts the possible death of Walmart, which relies on cheap oil to ship its goods from China to the U.S. “Wal-Mart has built a business on gasoline-as the price goes up, maintaining that global network won’t be possible,” Steiner said.
High gas prices also could bring a decline in obesity as people start walking more to save gas money. “We’ll save 16,000 lives annually with gas at $6 a gallon–an amazing effect,” Steiner said.
In addition he predicts the collapse of many airlines, shrinking resort towns, fewer oversees trips and a lack of affordable flights overseas or home for Christmas. Exotic could also be harder to come by.
“Where you live determines how you live,” said Steiner, “Maybe next time you’re in a transitional point of life, don’t go further out and buy the bigger house, but move to a walkable community, near a train. That’s a change you’ll profit from.”