So, what was that about peak oil?

Gas Van

Carpooling home from work yesterday, we pass a self-serve gas station advertising its cheapest gas for 99.5 cents per litre. That is, beyond doubt, the highest price I’ve ever seen for gas in my part of the world.

But that’s not as high as it’s going to go. We here in Canada, and those of us in the United States, are getting an incredible deal on gasoline if we want to compare prices with Europe or Asia. And all indications are, as the price of oil continues to increase, it’s only a matter of time before Canadian gasoline is well into three digits.

I don’t mind that too much. We’ve talked all manner of talk about the need to conserve oil and reduce pollution — about weening ourselves from the energy umbilical cord stretching out from Middle Eastern dictatorships — and it seems the only way we can get people to think about leaving their cars at home and taking public transit is raising the price of gas. You want to make the hydrogen economically viable? This is how. Most people who suggest this tend to suggest raising gas taxes, but the free market appears to be doing just fine on its own.

And it’s not like we can do much about it. The solution to the problem of high gas prices is to find more and cheaper oil. The free market would have demanded that this be done long ago, if such oil existed. As prices aren’t coming down, I think we have to resign ourselves to the fact that the age of cheap energy is… well, if not over, at least in prolonged hiatus.

At least Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia will be happy, and I’m not one to begrudge them their good luck. The American people can at least take comfort in the fact that their number one supplier of energy is a stable democracy, as can we all.

The one question I do have is, how are the gas stations here going to handle advertising the fact that their gas is now over a dollar a litre? I have yet to see a gas station in Waterloo Region where the display has anything more than three digits and a decimal point between the last two, meaning that 99.9 cents per litre is as high as they go before they encounter their own Y2K problem.

My mother suggested that they could simply tick over to 00.5 for a dollar and a half cent, but I chuckled and suggested the immediate reaction could well be “free gas! woohoo!” followed by riots when they look at their bill. Maybe a big “1” painted or pasted on the left edge of the sign will suffice.

Well, if anything, this shows that the high gas prices we’re seeing aren’t an oil company conspiracy, because I think if the oil companies knew that they were going to hit over a dollar a litre sooner rather than later, they’d have set up their display counters to take that into account…

…unless that’s what they want us to think (shifty eyes)

Toronto’s Still the Good

Toronto’s reputation has taken something of a hit in recent days… or has it?

There is no doubt that recent gang gunplay and vicious murders have been a tragedy, but I have to ask: do they destroy Toronto’s reputation as ‘Toronto the Good’, or have they merely confirm the prejudices others have always had about my home town?

For as long as I’ve been in Kitchener, ‘Toronto the Good’ has been sarcastically used to describe the town. The reputation of the city has always been one in common with other “big cities”: trashy, crime ridden, overly crowded. There is an erroneous assumption here that the city is a drain on the nation’s resources and the font of a lot of what is wrong about this country. Sure, Toronto had (and still has) a fraction of the crime rates seen in depressed American centres, but it was still a boogeyman. One from small town Ontario would not be caught dead on the streets of “big city” Toronto in the dead of night.

I, on the other hand, have walked some of the streets of Toronto in the middle of the night. With Erin at my side in a few cases. We were unmolested. Sure, we had our street smarts on, but we had no sense of threat to our personal security.

Toronto faces significant challenges; there is no doubt about that, but Toronto has also been through worse times. When I left for Kitchener in 1991, there were almost twice the number of murders by the beginning of August that we see today. There were summers when all of the beaches would close because of the ecoli count in Lake Ontario. In terms of murders, 1991 was an aberration. Ninety-two would die violently that year, well in excess of the 50-65 that have died per year for at least the past twenty. I have yet to hear of a beach closure this year. Poverty cripples Weston and the inner suburbs, yes, but poverty also used to grip the Kensington Market area, Cabbagetown, Donvale, and what is now the Distillery District.

When I read an article entitled “Toronto the Good is Gone — Resident”, I roll my eyes, and I have to catch myself and remind myself that in that resident’s worldview, who has been far too close to violence than anyone should ever be, Toronto the Good has indeed gone — or, at least their perception of it. When one’s sense of security has been shattered, it will take ages to rebuild, and that is a tragedy. But for her many remaining days, and the days of 99.9% of the population of the city, the reality of their security will remain as intact as before, and their possibilities for happiness will not diminish.

I’ve been back to my city, and I’ve talked to Torontonians, most of whom haven’t been afflicted with violence. The Toronto they know and love is very much alive. There is less crime now than there was at the beginning of the decade. Any death or any shooting is one too many, but that is no reason to give ourselves over to fear, or to use these deaths as a battering ram against Mayor Miller. Let us not forget that, by and large, Toronto is still a wonderful place. It always has been, and it always will be.

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