Confession: I'm a greenie, but I love cars

G Magazine October, 2008

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The October issue of G is on sale. It should be sitting there in your local newsagent or supermarket by now (if they are smart enough to stock it!). If you're a subscriber you've probably already received your copy.
It's a great issue, if I do say so myself...

We've settled down a little more into our redesign, so it's looking hot. And we've got a really good story about green cars.

I love cars. Look at the curves of an E-type Jaguar. Hear the throaty hum of a Lotus Esprit. And God help me if my heartbeat doesn’t quicken at the thought of an open-top car and a long, winding road.

It's a strange thing for a greenie to admit, but I grew up in a car family. My dad was even an engineer on track cars at Bathurst. He and I spent many a weekend peering into the engine bay of his 1964 Triumph Spitfire.

These days, however, Dad drives a Prius, and I ride a bicycle.

On average, Australians buy a new car every six or so years. That means the cars we buy today will probably still be sitting in our garage around the time that the head of Shell, Jeroen van der Veer has predicted that oil will start to become unfeasibly expensive to extract. As we discover in the new issue, Australian researchers are predicting that when this happens, petrol will hit $8 a litre.

On my bike, my transport costs won’t change. And while costs will rise for Dad in his Prius, it won’t hurt his wallet in the same way a petrol-hungry Commodore would. But for many of us in the future, driving a car will become a luxury beyond the household budget. Out of sheer cost necessity, people will be forced onto public transportation. I’m sure that I will be joined by increasing numbers of bicycle commuters.

Cities have the potential to change. Our local shopping centres will become increasingly important. Homes which are well serviced by public transport, shops and schools will attract the kind of premiums currently commanded by water views.

Naturally enough, car manufacturers have seen the writing on the wall. It’s why, more than 10 years ago, Toyota and Honda developed the hybrid petrol-electric engine, which we see increasingly employed by automakers around the world. Alternative fuels are being pursued, too, such as hydrogen and biofuels.
Cars will always exist, of course. They are a comfortable and convenient way of getting around. But I predict that Australians will start to use cars more like Europeans or Asians: there’ll be a lot more bicycles and motor-scooters on the roads, public transport will be popular, and cars will be driven only on special occasions. Those that we drive will be smaller and very fuel efficient.

Personally, as much as I love cars, I’m looking forward to this world. Stepping out of our cars will help reconnect us with our communities. Just because we use them less, won’t mean we don’t love them or will do without them; we’ll appreciate them a whole lot more when we do.

As long as they have convertibles I can hire for long weekends away, driving down winding coast roads, I’ll be happy.