retro-power

A trend that some would call disturbing has been building momentum as of late—rising fuel prices have forced farmers in rural areas of Southeast Asia back to oxen power to till and plow their fields. A hard-core capitalist would see this as a harbinger of impending apocalypse, but that view may be totally incorrect. Going back to time-tested, old school methods of getting stuff done isn’t such a bad thing. Oxen are probably happy to be back in the workplace as well. Disagree? What would you rather do—plow fields or become hamburger meat?

The efficiency of transatlantic flights has decreased a little because of increasing fuel costs, which has resulted in significantly higher priced fares. It’s highly possible air travel could become less efficient for crossing the pacific than large sailboats. Let’s say a one-way ticket to Tokyo from LAX costs 10,000 dollars. The alternative is a ticket to ride aboard a 150 foot sailboat for 500 bucks. The voyage could take as many of 5 weeks, but may be the more efficient option if one lives on a modest salary—if money lost from missing 5 weeks of work is less than the cost of the one-way flight, the sailboat is the more efficient method of travel. If one earns vastly more than 10 grand over 5 weeks, the airline flight is the way to go.

As fuel prices continue to skyrocket, somebody’s got to come up with a way to cross oceans faster than boats and cheaper than airplanes. Currently the only options for trans-oceanic flight are planes, boats, and freestyle (or breast-stroke if you prefer). There’s a huge efficiency gap, and there are plans on the drawing board to fill it. Very much like farmers going back to oxen, we may be going back to airships, or zeppelin-style aircraft in the near future. No, they’re not as fast as planes, but they use less energy because lift is handled by low-density, rather than wings and brute force. The company Turtle Airships is currently developing solar-powered airships that can do 200 mph—check it.

Will taxis be replaced by horse drawn carriages in NYC? Will the sun be blotted out by zeppelin traffic? You never know. If technology can’t keep up with dwindling resources, we may be going retro in the near future.

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