It's arrived. Four-dollars a gallon gas is here, and it has brought the future with it. Automobile magazine is reporting, in its September issue, that America's top-selling vehicle is now the compact Honda Civic, which has ended the 26-year reign of the giant Ford F-series truck, top selling vehicle since 1991.
It seems that American consumers are changing their buying habits and making fuel economy a priority. Back in 2004, buyers thought more about cup holders than miles per gallon. Not any more.
In second place is another attractive smaller car, the Toyota Corolla – which like the Honda Civic, has a long record of excellence. The Corolla has displaced the Chevrolet Silverado, which has dropped to sixth place immediately behind the Ford truck. What's more, the mighty Dodge Ram has dropped out of the top 10 entirely.
The pattern, in fact, shows a wholesale shift to more efficient small and mid-size cars. General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner told Automobile magazine that GM does not see the upset as temporary, but rather as a permanent shift.
Why permanent? Because, even if the cost of gasoline does drop below the magic $4 mark, the long-term trend is upward. Even without factoring in the negative impact on the environment – global warming, air quality and so on – the cost of oil is bound to rise because it is becoming scarcer. According to Automobile, analysts predict it could rise to $12, which, believe it or not, would bring us into line with global pricing.
Too bad that the industry leaders in the Motor City have taken so long to "get it." Instead of working to tempt consumers with exciting new lines of high efficiency vehicles, the industry nurtured and fed our dependence on luxurious, but thirsty, giants. And U.S. autoworkers are paying with the loss of their jobs.
The rest of us are paying at the pumps.
Already some school districts – not so far in Oregon — are discussing a four-day school week to save money. We think that's a terrible idea – but that's another story.
Let's avoid following the example of those auto industry leaders. Let's not pretend the future will look exactly the same as the present.
Suddenly conservation has become a bread and butter issue.
It's not all bad for the average person. The good news is that it's going to cost a whole lot less to be in style. And those rising transportation costs may even result in the return of manufacturing jobs that only yesterday were being outsourced around the globe.
Then there are the opportunities to build careers in the new "green" economy. The need for sustainable products and services is growing fast, for example, creating small business opportunities for smart entrepreneurs.
If you need training, there are some courses available through employers, through the community colleges and at the Portland Development Commission.
We can encourage our youth to look at careers in the emerging "green" economy. Horticulture, for example, is more important than ever. We need to go with the current, because we can't fight the future. We have to embrace it.
What Do You Think?