$20 a gallon? Main Street and Christopher Steiner think so, and it’s a good thing.


Since the chances of our local Main Street organization sharing it with you are somewhere between none and less than that, you may as well read the national Main Street organization’s Story of the Week here:

$20 Per Gallon: All Roads Lead to Main Street, by Erica Stewart (Main Street)

Let’s start with the automobile, and in particular, its gas tank, which is where half of our imported oil ends up. We Americans have a love affair with our cars. This is no secret, and the ways in which the automobile has commanded the development of our suburbs and exurbs is well-documented. Nor is it a mystery how Main Streets have suffered from our reliance on the automobile. As more and more of us abandoned historic, close-in neighborhoods in favor of sprawling new homes and garages, commercial developers followed suit, delivering a suburban Car-topia landscape of strip malls and indoor shopping malls, dotted with big-box retailers, mammoth surface parking lots and a maze of divided highways and traffic lights. As we’ve distanced our homes from where we work, go to school, shop, and worship, the car has been there to bridge the gap. And what has made that work? Cheap oil.

The other half of our imported crude goes into “stuff” we consume. Steiner effectively describes how cheap oil has also enabled our consumption of foreign-made goods, things like couches, DVD players, mops, bed sheets—-products made of synthetic materials derived from, again, oil. These things can be made cheaply in China, for example, where labor and material inputs are vastly less expensive than in the U.S. , and then shipped here via massive container ships. Wal-Mart, for example, has 6,000 suppliers, 80 percent of which are located in China. There’s no way its business model–one based on a global supply chain and distribution of its goods–works without cheap oil. There’s no way it offers such low prices without a supply of cheap oil.