She's using gasoline, but down the road, it could be something else. (Photo: OJO Images, CP Images)

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You don't need to be old to remember when motorists would speak of rumours that gas prices would one day hit $1.00 a litre, or when it was possible to hand over a five dollar bill and see the fuel gauge actually move.

Today paying a fortune for gasoline is something we take for granted and it is hard even to conceive of a time when no one really knew what to do with the stuff because the alternatives seemed so much better.

The first man ever to sink a productive oil well, for example, "Colonel" Edwin L. Drake, nevertheless died penniless. Similarly, until the early 1900s, the land speed record was routinely broken by battery- and steam-powered machines rather than any of these new-fangled internal-combustion-engined thingies.

Slowly but surely gasoline became the default choice, although we now realize that its reign will be relatively short-lived. A century ago it was just one choice among many and, with talk of climate change and fossil-fuel depletion, tens of millions of dollars are being spent to find new alternatives. Here are a few examples of what might work ...