What could have been a cinematic set-piece explains my somewhat cavalier perspective on the previously-mentioned issue of "running out of oil".
It was just after the oil embargo of 1973, a formative, traumatic experience for people my age. I was waiting to walk across a street with a slightly older and extremely astute colleague. One of the first domestic (USA) "compact cars" rolled by. We both noticed it.
"Detroit," my friend intoned and pointed accusingly, "just saved the suburbs."
What he meant, of course, was that the fuel efficiency of the compact car would save America from having to change its spatial structure, move closer-in, densify, rebuild center cities and all that. He was dead-on correct. In the past 30 years suburban expansion has continued apace. And there is plenty of room for vastly higher oil prices, no matter how much people might complain; Europe has suburbs at $5/gallon. The cars simply get more efficient so that people can continue to live in their detached single-family "estates."
If one is concerned about the terrific, soul-destroying ugliness of suburban expansion, as Jim Kunstler surely and rightly is, don't look to higher oil prices as a savior. The primary impact of high(er) oil prices on suburban development will be a change in the size of cars. Consequently, if the change is expected to be long-term, the major spatial impact will be smaller parking spaces.
Good urban design --- walkable, pedestrian commercial districts --- will not be a direct result of high(er) oil prices.