The End of the World as We Know it?

May 30, 2005
Musings from the MINI...
With dire storm warnings and massive clouds looming on the horizon, we decided to stick close to home this weekend. Not a bad idea, it turned out. The rest of Michigan, it seems, must have gone up north to the collective lakefront cottage, fighting through the endless construction that passes for I-75, while we motor around amazingly quiet Detroit roadways with the top down on the MINI Convertible we're testing this week. After clocking close to 300 miles, I gazed down at the gas gauge, wondering whether to fill up, and was shocked to see that I'd barely broken below the 3/4-tank mark.

That raised some serious storm clouds of the mind. I must admit to being a very serious performance junkie. There's nothing quite like the adrenalin rush of a big V-8 running flat out, or the purring V-12 in the SL600 we drove the week before the MINI. But these days, I cannot help wondering how long it's all going to last.

There are growing concerns about the flow of oil, and with that I'm not even thinking about the deadly cat-and-mouse games that continue to disrupt the flow of petroleum from the fields of Iraq. Until recently, it seemed like most expert were content to believe that there would be more than enough reserves to carry the world forward well into the 21st Century. More than enough to carry an increasingly auto-centric world, where millions of new drivers -- in places like China and India -- were taking to the roads each year. The run-up of gasoline prices in the last year suggests supplies are already being strained, but according to a frightening new book, we've yet to feel the worst of it.

Don't read Matthew Simmon's "Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy," (published by John Wiley & Sons) before driving home over the holiday weekend. You may feel too guilty -- or too worried. To sum it up in a gas can, Simmons doesn't even focus on the projected oil reserves we've yet to discover. He takes on the claims of the Saudis, who've long been believed to be sitting on the world's largest reserves. But what if that's all a sham? What if the Saudi gas tank is moving perilously close to empty?

It's enough to make me start thinking about higher fuel economy rules and hybrids. I just might have to find another way to get my adrenalin rush.

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