Forbes Writer Warns of $20 Gas; Envisions a Utopia Nearly Without Cars

Imagine the post-oil apocalypse, with modern American society heading into a direction with no Disney vacations, no airlines – a world devoid of one-stop convenient big retailers. Sounds like a desolate place, but that’s an ideal society according to Forbes magazine Christopher Steiner.

Steiner appeared on NBC’s July 24 “Today” and described a world with gas headed to $20 a gallon, but according to him it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

“Well, it’s important to understand that $20 per gallon, those types of figures, those are a couple decades away,” Steiner said. “But what’s important to understand is that we are running out of oil. Over the next 30 years, you’re talking about another 2 billion people entering the globe living American-style lives. Right now there’s only a billion of those people on the globe and those people are going to want oil. And so our supply is going to slowly go down and demand’s going to go up.”

Steiner explained there’s going to be short-term pain at first but said that people would be better off with his vision – lower obesity and less of a reason to travel, as such as going on vacation.

“The airlines, most of them, the way we know them now, are going to go out of business,” Steiner continued. “I mean, they’re very unstable organizations as it is. Eight dollars is really going to be the change for the paradigm of American travel.”

Next would come the death of “big-box” retailers as such as Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) – with gas at $14 a gallon.

“Wal-Mart’s got 6,000 suppliers, 80 percent of them are in China,” Steiner said. “They ship this stuff over. They disseminate it across the country with 7,000 trucks to 4,000 different stores. It’s a network built on gasoline. Without cheap oil, it doesn’t work.”

And according to Steiner – that’s not a bad thing – that’s utopia because people will be forced to subsist locally – on Main Street, without imported goods, walking almost everywhere they go.

“It’s going to help out local economies and people are going to still live in small towns, but they’re not going to be captive customers to places like Wal-Mart,” Steiner continued. “They’re going to move back to Main Street. They’re going to shop on Main Street. They’re going to walk to work. They’re going to walk to school. They’re going to walk to buy a gallon of milk.”

“Today” co-anchor Matt Lauer said the higher price of oil could bring about “positive changes” and asked Steiner what the probability of this ever coming to fruition would be, But Steiner declined to assign a probability.

“Well, it’s hard to say,” Steiner said. “But what I can say is that the changes in the book that we talk about will have to happen no matter how high gas goes because we have to mitigate how much we use oil. And to do that, these are the types of things we have to do.”