At the height of the fuel crisis, a gathering of eminent scientists assembled in London. Attending that showcase of the best in contemporary scientific research and discovery, the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, they heard one of their number deliver a paper that, purely by chance, put the fuel crisis in its vital wider context.

Professor Michael Boulter, of East London University, who studies our planet's distant biology through fossils, warned that, on the geological time scale, the end is fast approaching for homosapiens. Though the survival pattern of major mammals in earlier eras, like that of the dinosaur, suggests we should be around for hundreds of millions of years, the rate at which we have made other species extinct spells our relatively swift doom.

"Humans are increasing the pace of the present mass extinction, which will involve all large mammals and many other groups," declared Prof Boulter. "We will be one of the extinguished species."

The professor identified two activities chiefly responsible for our destruction of other species. The first, spanning thousands of years, was hunting by prehistoric men after the last Ice Age. But the damage to the planet through the use of fossil fuels over a much shorter period has been far worse. Asked whether human ingenuity could prevent our extinction, he replied: "There's anger over the high price of fossil fuels. Cutting back on them is the one thing human beings must do to avert extinction, but they won't do it, will they."

Of course not, to judge by the overwhelming support for the fuel blockades. Our head-in-the-sand attitude was brilliantly captured in a cartoon in The Observer newspaper. It shows a bedraggled and sorrowful Mother Earth trailing into darkness with her three distressed children, Congestion, Pollution, and Climate Change, while a convoy of cars, lorries and tankers speeds off in the other direction, down a road signposted Nowhere, via Lower Fuel Prices, Increased Car Ownership and More Road Building.

The crisis brought glimmerings of sanity into to what Margaret Thatcher hailed as "the great car culture". In my village parents accompanied their children on foot to school. Everywhere people thought before making a journey. If they did go, they drove more slowly. Many communities welcomed the reduced traffic and speed.

Obviously the price of fuel is crucial to many people who depend on motor vehicles. If it is politically impossible to raise the tax, governments should act firmly in other ways. More investment in public transport goes without saying. But why not also progessively tax cars according to size?

Two-car ownership should also be more highly taxed. And, since oil is expected to run out well within the next 100 years, research into renewable energy, especially solar power and the sea, should be rescued from its present Cinderella role.

Unlike Norway, which has invested its oil revenues heavily in public transport and the welfare state, we have squandered our oil bonanaza on tax cuts. Thank you, Tories. And for William Hague now to make political capital out of the fuel crisis, when it was also Tory governments that introduced the above-inflation "fuel escalator", crippling hauliers, and encouraged greater car use by approving out of town shopping centres and business parks, is both laughable but contemptible.

The greatest black mark against Tony Blair is not his alleged deafness to protests but his failure to make any reference to the green issues at the heart of the matter.

While the restoration of petrol supplies is obviously welcome, we will simply be postponing more, and probably terminal, pain for the future if we allow everything else to do with transport also to get "back to normal".