I was out of commission for a few weeks, mostly on vacation, mostly in Germany. And when I came back to the U.S. the price of gas had risen another 50 cents and is now hovering around $4.25 a gallon. Most of my European friends are not very sympathetic because if you use 1.5 as an exchange rate for Euro to Dollars the price per gallon in Germany is now around $9, so almost exactly double the U.S. cost. Still, that’s not the point, because small distances in the U.S. are huge distances in Europe (I can get as fast from Frankfurt to Geneva as I can from Detroit to Chicago, which is probably the shortest distance between two major cities in the U.S.). So at some point one might ask, what will be the impact on doing research abroad ? Well, travel cost will go up drastically. You’re already paying extra for drinks and luggage on some overseas flights, but the major cost hikes will come from gas prices. The transportation problem in the U.S. is becoming so bad that people already are contemplating the effect on the higher education system. The New York Times featured an article on July 11th that shows that students more and more sign up for online classes, and many of them state the cost of driving to and from school as one of the major motivators. On-Campus education could, at some point, become prohibitively expensive, not because of college tuition but because of additional transportation cost. So the question might arise whether in a time of world-wide science globalization, on-site science might become prohibitively expensive and everything besides maintenance needs to be, and will be, done remotely via GRIDs, EVO, etc..
Still, the on-site shift load that I reported on last month seemed daunting and that is just the minimum commitment to keep the experiments afloat. So both the U.S. groups as well as the U.S. funding agencies need to seriously consider the effect an economy in crisis, and therefore a potentially staggering increase in transportation cost to and from the experiments, might have on our future plans.
Rene Bellwied | USLHC | USA
Will work for travel money !!