Oil, incentives, and alternatives (again)

Some brief follow-up material about the price of oil, consumer behavior, and energy alternatives. (Earlier mention here.)

Steven Mufson of the Washington Post wrote about the issue on October 20, and more recently talked it over with public radio show Word of Mouth.

And, on Marketplace yesterday:

Already, U.S. pickup demand is back on the rise, after collapsing earlier this year. Their sales share is nearly what it was before oil prices hit their high-end tipping point. [GM research executive Tom] Kloza says, so much for the buyers being changed forever.

Similar themes all around: The fear that weak oil prices, leading to cheap gas, can end up meaning that innovation-searching slows down, because consumer demand (and thus the profit motive) aren’t sufficient.

I wouldn’t say we’ve actually hit that point. Actually in some ways the number of stories on this proves we aren’t.

But what I want to add here is that I kind of think this GM guy gets off the hook a little too easily: If GM believes it’s important to sell smaller vehicles with better mileage, then make them and sell them. It’s disappointing if it’s true that consumer behavior change on this is so easily susceptible to backsliding, but whatever. Toyota didn’t need $100-a-barrel oil to develop the Prius.