The essay sheds the lights on the fuel crisis in the USA in 1997. Asimov says that the life of the Americans will become like a nightmare. It will suffer a lot and will be changed into the world of primitive days.
The scene is The United States of America in the future, at a time when fuel (gases, petrol, diesel, kerosene etc.) is running out. People no longer drive cars, but rides bicycles, instead, and old buildings are torn down so their materials can be reused. The alternative sources of fuel like solar power, atomic energy and coal will not cope with the problem.
However, the fuel shortage will bring us some advantages. The air is cleaner, fewer people have colds, there is less crime, and people will have learnt to live life without facilities such as electric lights, indoor heating and showers with hot water.
These advantages cannot surpass the disadvantages that we get from fuel crisis. People who live in suburbs have many problems. They live a long distance from shops and find it difficult to buy and store supplies; trains are allowed to be used so that energy can be saved; only the railroads and underground subway trains are allowed to run. There are no heaters, no light at night and most seriously there is shortage of food.
Outside America, the situation is even worse because of the growth in the world’s population. Many people are starving, and many others are brain-damaged.
There are no armies in the world except in America and Russia, and even these armies cannot move their planes and tanks. In workplaces, machines have been replaced by the muscles of humans and animals. There is less television, fewer books are printed and people have less leisure time. The world will look to have returned to like a time before 1800, before industrialization took place.
The final paragraph show the ways of avoiding the fuel crisis. Asimov says if we had started
“20 years ago” to save fuel, then the fuel storage could have been avoided. The author is really desperate by seeing the crisis. Asimov sees no way out of the problem.