Fuel challenges for us all

October 2021 – By Patrick McIntosh

It is of course incredibly important to recognise that some in our community, and many around the world, are suffering enormous hardship as a consequence of high gas prices and a restriction of access to basic fuel requirements.  However, I also think there are some positives which will shape society going forward in a variety of different ways.

One of the problems with the evolution of global economics over the last 20 years has been the migration of cheap labour and the exploitation of low wages over improved productivity, investment in technology and, to some extent, the deferment of what now must happen as a consequence of a number of key issues.

The lack of training and skills in society is becoming apparent.  Whether in qualified tanker drivers or teachers, nurses or a whole range of other essential services, society in general is suffering significantly from poor skill sets and out of date education – particularly as we move into the artificial intelligence and technological age.

I think we are also beginning to see the effects of an ageing population, a retiring workforce and a lack of people ready to replace them.  This in turn means we are increasingly forced to face the reality that life must evolve, and pretty rapidly, in order to cope with the demographic age wave that is now upon us.  I think this will start to change the somewhat selfish attitude that is so prevalent in wealthy society and the need to respect all our fellow citizens if we are to collectively live happily together.

Some of the enormous positives that will come out of the fuel crisis will be related to climate change: as gas prices go up so we must hope that more people will invest in the infrastructure of insulating their homes, possibly adjusting the thermostat down and wearing warmer clothes.  There will be greater emphasis on governments across the world to support people, particularly those less well off, into a less carbon-intensive world through the redirection of tax.

Once again remote working becomes relevant as people find it difficult to find the fuel to make the journeys, and as fuel prices rise so therefore the cost of travel will encourage more people and companies to work locally and possibly from home more regularly.  After all, if you can’t afford to increase the wages of your employees but you can save them money by reducing their overheads this must be a win win for both sides of the argument; although it doesn’t, of course, increase tax revenue for the government because in a way this is a form of subliminal barter.

I bet we will see a gentle increase in the purchase of electric cars, and this momentum will accelerate as the scarring of fuel poverty affects those who can afford to move more rapidly to carbon efficient transportation. 

There may be a greater uptake in public transport, especially following the reluctance to get on buses and trains after the pandemic, and so too may also be the motivation to take a bit more exercise and possibly cycle or walk a bit more than we have in the past.  We may also restrict unnecessary travel and even possibly encourage parents to walk their children to school where possible.

Crises, particularly those hitting everybody at the bottom line, historically demand rapid change.  Whilst Brexit has been a contributory factor peculiar to the UK, in some ironic way I think it will also force us to re-engineer and re-think our way of life ahead of the pack and this, in time, will probably push UK forward more rapidly than other nations around the world.

We shall see.