Monday, June 09, 2008

No Good Message 

The news of $4/gallon gas has few upsides other than enforced conservation. I drove to Baltimore and Washington DC over the weekend and back to New Jersey. I can attest to shock at the pump. What is painful is watching auto manufacturers trying to make their cars high mileage vehicles. I saw one ad over the weekend in which the manufacturer trumpeted the 23-mile-per-gallon rating for a vehicle as high-mileage. That's not only poor PR. It's absurd. But, the sudden change in fuel prices has forced the entire industry into absurdity. There is no good message and for the first time, overall miles driven are declining. There have been numerous stories that mass transit was equally unprepared for the rise in prices. Bus lines are squeezed by diesel prices well over $4/gallon. Trains have seen a rise in ridership, but trains don't go everywhere, especially in the US.

So we have entered a period of pain in which there will be a temporary, or perhaps long-term, diminution in lifestyle. What is the message that makes that palatable?

Jim, Jim, I expected more from you! Any PR person worth her salt could do a killer spin on this.

(And, FTR, by spin I mean calling attention to the brighter side of the story, NOT hiding the bad stuff.)

Look at what Chrysler's doing with its "over two hundred thousand alternative fuel vehicles on the road" angle.

It's definitely a crisis for the auto industry. But crisis involved both risk and opportunity. Yeah, $4 a gallon sucks, but if it means more people riding their bikes to work (and thus hopefully fewer drivers, or at least more bike-aware drivers on the road), I'm all for it!

This is a CHANGE in lifestyle, not a diminution. It'll mean more people working from home, more reliance on network technology. Maybe even at least a temporary resurgence in regionalization and localization.

Hell, maybe it'll FINALLY lead to a resurgence of the city, which at least here in the states has been in a steady decline since the 1960s.

Maybe I'm seeing rose-colored glasses, but I'm seeing green...

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