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The fuel economy

Fuel prices have been shooting up for most of last year and all of this year, and based on the unstable situation in the international stage, it doesn’t look like our pockets are going to get any respite in the coming months.

In our case, the timing is terrible because these record highs in the price of fuel is hitting us hard just as our little world that has been locked up for two whole years is finally starting to open up.

If you come to think of the irony of it, fuel prices were A-OK when most of us were stuck at home over the past two years. The only good thing that came from this poorly-managed pandemic is that in the Philippines, office workers had the option to work from home while most students had no choice but to go to school online. Over the past two years, transport and fuel costs were drastically reduced for most families and was diverted to upgrades in internet service plans and loungewear.

However, now that we’ve hit the 2-year limit on quarantine and alert levels, most of us have come to terms with the fact that we will have to start getting used to the idea of going back to work and/or school.

Unfortunately for us, this daily activity that we’ve basically forgotten about can be quite costly, especially when facing record highs in the price of fuel. Even without problems in the cost of fuel, going to and from work and school in a post-pandemic world was already going to involve a lot of adjustment on our part. Our wonky schedules, coupled with the ridiculous price of fuel will only add to our woes and it seems like we are totally unprepared for it.

In my case, my wife is transitioning from 2 years of WFH, back into the real world. I currently juggle two jobs, one on-site and another from home come late afternoon/night time. It’s not yet confirmed, but I’m pretty certain our kids will be going back to some sort of school-type arrangement this year. The cherry on top of this work-life-school transition is that our home is 2 cities and 14 kilometers away from our chosen place of work and school.

Thinking about the time, fuel and other resources needed to synchronize the lives of 2 adults with full-time jobs and two high schoolers in a post pandemic world with soaring fuel prices is already giving me a headache.

At this point, I don’t know if or when fuel prices will go down. Our government that seems to have pretty much left us alone to fend for ourselves and doesn’t seem to care that fuel costs are skyrocketing. As someone who has been living between Silay and Bacolod for most of his life, I’m already tapped out when it comes to strategies to maximize fuel economy. Ever since I was a child, we never had the luxury of unplanned trips to and from the “city.” I know all the fuel-saving tricks in the book and treat my daily drive as a never ending game of fuel efficiency. At this point, the best I can do is try to lessen the unnecessary 30-km round trips and hope that whatever becomes of the new normal this year allows that. Or pray for either an increase in income or lower fuel prices.

The combination of the 2-year pandemic lockdown and the fuel crunch at its tail end is making me rethink of the lifestyle that I thought was normal and what we are coming back to. I know I don’t want to live my life online, that’s for sure. However, I know it won’t be possible in the next 10 years, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could all live in walkable communities? How great would it be to live in a community where it was possible to walk or bike to a decent workplace and/or school, so this fuel crisis wouldn’t be too big of a problem? It would probably also be good for the environment and our mental health.

I know I’m making a tall order for my particular setup which involves a 14-km one-way commute, but the walkable community is something all our cities and city planners (if such people exist) should aspire to. The pandemic has demonstrated just how decentralized everything could be so it is theoretically possible to build on this decentralization so that more people don’t have to go too far from home for work, school, entertainment and supplies. If private developers can do it, I don’t see what’s stopping local governments from doing the same, or even better.

Perhaps if we start on building such communities now, my kids (if they don’t migrate out of this country by then) can build their families in one and they don’t have to worry about fuel prices and commuting times so much.*

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May 2022
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