Sunday, April 13, 2008

PR Issue #1: The Gas crisis

With the summer months looming ahead of us, many of us will be filling up at the pumps, gearing up for an escape on that classic summer road trip. Or will be? This is because of the gas crisis we are in. A crisis that is just going to get a whole lot worse before it gets any better.

I remember as a youth, joining my mom for the late night drive to pick up my sister from her night shift at a local coffee shop. With the gas station right beside, my mom would fill up for 53 cents/litre. That was is in the 1990s, not in the 70s or 80s. Today, you would be hard pressed to find gas less than $1.10/litre, more than double what it is today.

Rising gas prices is something that we all are going to have to get used to. If you think that the rise back in 2004, due to the war in the Middle East was an isolated occurrence, think again. Forecasts of gas $1.30, $1.40 and even possibly $1.50/litre for this summer are all possible figures.

While tension in the Middle East, is a reason for the gas pinch, countries that did not use gas as much are now using it more than ever.

Countries such as China and India being the two biggest examples, are moving towards the same type of of lifestyle, we enjoy in the western world. This is something that is definitely understandable, however as they make this transition, it increases the strain on one of the world's most precious resources, making it become thinner and thinner.

So with all of that said, it begs the question: what do we do now? Is it time to put all our faith in hoping that gas suddenly gets phased out by alternative energies, such as electricity, hydrogen, or solar power? No. We must find a new way to tackle the gas crisis, a new word, we must adapt.

As much as we hope, that by some miracle gas will go down to affordable levels for all of us it won't. Everything that is going on in the world (Middle East tensions, China and India's rise to achieve first world status, supply and demand of oil) makes it a safe assumption that the opposite will happen.

With this the case, there is still a lot we can do to adapt to this crisis which is affecting all of this. However to adapt, we need to have sound PR strategies, three key ones which I believe can affect the attitudes of everyone involved in this global issue to accomplish this.

It is foolish to suggest everyone will stop driving because of rising gas prices. With millions of cars on the road in Canada and the U.S., this is not realistic. This is where our first PR strategy to solve the gas crisis comes into play, driver education.

In terms of driver education, drivers must be aware that simple car maintenance, making sure your tires are fully pumped, not accelerating too fast, reducing drag by not having heavy objects ontop of your car, saves you gas.

Our second PR strategy, is public transit. Yes many of those who have been driving since 16, may groan at this idea, but if you look at the facts, public transit is on the rise. Here in Ottawa this is even more clear with the proposed expansion of our current transit plan, as the way to service this rising demand. If we can encouraging drivers that public transit is fast, and cost efficient option, the number of cars on the road would start to decrease.

The third and final PR strategy, I have identified to combat the gas crisis is rewarding those who purchase more fuel efficient vehicles by offering them tax saving incentives. So for example if future car buyers buy hybrid vehicles, which uses alternative energy such as electricity, they will receive tax credits. If people are still willing to drive cars, at least there will be vehicles which leave less of an environmental impact on our roads.

If we really want to combat the gas crisis, those who drive cars should be educated in the proper maintenance of their vehicles, to lessen the amount of gas a vehicle uses. We have to be aware of alternative methods of transport, such as public transit or carpooling, so that we can share the use of gas. Finally, for the category of drivers that will always be drivers, try and purchase smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. In return you will get more tax saving opportunities while saving more of one of our planets most precious resources, one tank at a time.