Back in February, in the good old days when a gallon of gas cost only $3.42, our family started contemplating a summertime road trip. We’ve done a few of these over the years and, like many Americans, consider a cross-country summertime drive a necessary cultural experience that helps enhance family unity. For the most part.
Anyhow, one of the big questions my wife and I had to answer was which vehicle to take, the 25-mpg Honda Odyssey minivan, or the 50-mpg Honda Civic Hybrid? With a drive of as much as 5,000 miles ahead of us, at $4.00/gal the Odyssey would cost $800 in gas, the Civic, $400.
This is no small difference, but for three boys aged 13, 11, and 8 and their 6-foot-plus Dad, neither is the comfort gap: The Odyssey leaves plenty of room for arms and legs and luggage, while the five-seat Civic would force everyone into a proximity likely to challenge familial harmony and order. We were, despite the economics of the matter, somewhat undecided about which vehicle to take on the trip, so my wife and I decided to put the matter to the kids. We explained the situation and all of the factors to consider and then prepared to referee a debate about which vehicle they preferred. Surprisingly, their response was short, simple and uniform: “Sounds like we need to take the Civic.”
This tale is not designed to illustrate just how environmentally conscious and earth-friendly my family is. Were we truly good stewards of the earth and its resources, we probably wouldn’t have bought the Odyssey in the first place, although back in 2000, its economy handily beat the Chevy Suburban we also were considering. Instead, this anecdote is just one example of the kind of decisions that families are forced to make every day as rapidly rising fuel costs impose an increasing financial burden. We, and many other families we know, are in the midst of a fundamental change in many daily habits — driving only when necessary, making a greater effort to combine trips to the store with other errands, being more conscientious about turning off lights when leaving rooms and myriad other money-savers.
At the very least, Americans and citizens of other developed and developing countries in the world are waking up to the finality of our petroleum resources, feeling the impact on our pocketbooks, and making basic changes to accommodate the new reality. In growing numbers, however, they’re realizing that we are in the middle of a vast, global paradigm shift that we are only just beginning to comprehend.
Evidence of this shift is everywhere, but in the composites industry no more so than in the wind energy sector. As contributing writer Chris Red reports, beginning on p. 42, the very robust outlook for production of composite wind turbine rotor blades has probably been underestimated and, in any case, represents a massive and still growing opportunity for composites and composites processors.
The only cloud on the horizon is that the U.S. federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for installation of wind energy systems, which has, over the last five or so years, spurred wind farm development, will expire at the end of this year. The current U.S. Congress has yet to renew it. Still, it’s an election year, and one assumes that lawmakers will soon see the light and renew the PTC.
In the meantime, the Sloan Clan will be on the road soon. Just look for a family of five crammed into a Civic, doing some paradigm shifting.