Gas prices kill the “Green Acres” dream

Rethinking the Country Life as Energy Costs Rise,” was the NYT story yesterday:

Suddenly, the economics of American suburban life are under assault as skyrocketing energy prices inflate the costs of reaching, heating and cooling homes on the distant edges of metropolitan areas.

green-acres1.jpgGreen acres is the place to be
Farm living is the life for me
Land spreading out, so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.

Just off Singing Hills Road, in one of hundreds of two-story homes dotting a former cattle ranch beyond the southern fringes of Denver, Phil Boyle and his family openly wonder if they will have to move close to town to get some relief.

green-acres2.jpg New York is where I’d rather stay
I get allergic smelling hay
I just adore a penthouse view
Darling, I love you,
but give me Park Avenue.

But life on the edges of suburbia is beginning to feel untenable.

Mr. Boyle and his wife must drive nearly an hour to their jobs in the high-tech
corridor of southern Denver. With gasoline at more than $4 a gallon, Mr.
Boyle recently paid $121 to fill his pickup truck with diesel fuel. In
March, the last time he filled his propane tank to heat his spacious house,
he paid $566, more than twice the price of 5 years ago.

Though Mr. Boyle finds city life unappealing, it is now up for

“Living closer in, in a smaller space, where you don’t have that commute,”
he said. “It’s definitely something we talk about. Before it was ‘we spend
too much time driving.’ Now, it’s ‘we spend too much time and money
driving.’ ”

… In Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Minneapolis, homes beyond the
urban core have been falling in value faster than those within, according
to an analysis by Moody’s

… More than three-fourths of prospective home buyers are now more inclined to
live in an urban area because of fuel prices, according to a recent survey
of 903 real estate agents with Coldwell Banker, the national brokerage

“I was so glad to get out of the city, the pollution the traffic, the
crime,” [Juanita Johnson]
said. Now, the suburbs seem mean. “I wouldn’t do this again.”

Could this be the beginning of the end of sprawl?

5 Responses to Gas prices kill the “Green Acres” dream

  1. Ronald says:

    okay. colorful topic and angle. But of course, Oliver Wendal Douglas moverd to hooterville to watch the crops he put into the ground shooots to the sky. He lived on the farm. Not quite the same as commuting.

    I have relatives in Germany and the man, (how else to say it) would live in the city during the week working at a well paying union construction job and would go home on weekends. That would be a good reason for 4 day work weeks.

    I know someone who drives an hour and a half EACH way for his daily commute. What’s up with that. He does have a fuel efficient car.

  2. Bob Wallace says:

    And I live a long drive to even “Hooterville”. There are a number of us scattered through these coastal mountains.

    We have built our lives where we are and don’t spend significant parts of our days driving. We are adaptive and creative.

    I’ve returned to “$2 gas”. I just make the drive to the closest city half as often and buy twice as much stuff when I get there.

    And once we get affordable battery powered cars with the range of the Tesla I’ll drive with “$0 gas”. I’ve got more power than I can use from my solar panels for 8-9 months of the year. A wind generator will fill in the winter gap.

    Most of us out here make our own power.

  3. Dano says:

    Well, Elizabeth is a doable drive from where I live, and the folk out there were able to chase some dream because of cheap energy – anybody going to work anywhere out there in the wind must drive for 45 minutes. Notwithstanding the time away from family, these sorts of things will be less desirable as energy prices continue to rise. The days of cheap energy are almost over.



  4. Robert says:

    The writing has been on the wall for years for those that have been paying attention. I bought Heinberg’s “Powerdown”, KUnstler’s “The Long Emergency” and “The End of Suburbia” DVD about 4 years ago and things are pretty much panning out as predicted.

    Why do people have so much trouble believing that oil is a finite, non-renewable, non-substitutable resource?

  5. Earl Killian says:

    Robert, perhaps Upton Sinclair’s principle applies (“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”)