By Myron Wlaznak

Uncharted Future

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Over the past few years, I’ve written in other venues about profound impacts we can expect to our daily lives from fundamental changes in a rapidly evolving world. Some of the changes are subtle – like ingredient changes in our laundry soap. Other changes – like $5 a gallon and up for gasoline are in your face, high profile, eruptions.

I’ve asked a number of folks in various professions, of varying ages, of various political persuasions, various financial situations to collect their thoughts, write them down so that the rest of use might benefit from their perspective. This is the first installment of what I hope will be many insights into our uncharted future.

As we slide into a slow starting summer punctuated by last night’s thunderstorm, I am struck not only by the shear number of these fundamental changes but also by their taking root, even thriving so far, without the mass hysteria, riots, violence and utter dismay of previous occurrences in our relatively short history.

For example an analysis of my June budget showed that what we paid for gasoline exceeded what we paid for food! What is more remarkable, is that we have cut back on driving a great deal over the past several years, reaching a point where we felt justified in burning our small portion of fossil fuel. Evidently it is time to rethink our position. But what is the larger economic impact for me and our economy?

It is impossible to justify buying a new, better mileage car given the volatility of gasoline prices. Buying a car that gets double the mileage is a bust when the price of gasoline also doubles. What fundamentally has to happen to justify this expense is either for gasoline prices to precipitously fall or mileage to substantially increase, say to over 100 plus miles per gallon. Are either of these solutions in the offing near term? (By the way electric cars still burn fuel(s) when the batteries are recharged and the price of all energy sources has and is rising alongside the price of gasoline).

American car manufacturers were still pushing gas guzzling SUVs when the latest warning signs begin appearing despite what many learned folks had predicted decades ago, well before the price of gasoline started its relentless march into the stratosphere. What is the impact of this state of denial, this lack of foresight,—hundreds of thousands will lose their jobs, profits to shareholders (including 401k retirement accounts) will plummet and the very existence of these companies is questionable. If the saying “As goes GM, so goes the country” still holds – God help us.

What will be some of the trickle down impacts of losing General Motors or Ford or Chrysler? On the one hand the ripple effect will be immediately felt by parts suppliers, raw material fabricators, mining companies. Demand will simply dry up as production falls. On the other side, gasoline stations, repair shops, accessory stores, insurance companies, financing institutions, will likewise see their business start to tamper off and they will slowly begin to fail. Only the financially strong and the innovative will survive. With fewer choices, consumer prices will surely rise. American automotive companies and those closely tied to them will simply go the way of the horse and buggy, the bridle shop and the livery stable.

What will take their place? Futuristic minds not stuck in the GM mold will have to lead the way. It will be interesting to watch, painful and not without substantial risk.

In the meantime, use of mass transit in all of its current forms will increase, maybe even become fashionable again as we ride together to work, grocery shopping, and to the mall. Perhaps we will actually get out and walk, bike, skateboard, lose that bulge, slim that plump derriere, improve our circulation and blood pressure. Perhaps we will just stay home and live our lives through our electronic gadgets.

For some these may be subtle changes. To those losing their livelihood, their means to support a family, own a home, live the great American dream it is an upheaval of monumental proportions. But life will go on, just not life as we now know it.

About Myron Wlaznak

Citizen Journalist • Member since Jun 05, 2008