One of the more bizarre narratives floating through the news lately is the escalating series of threats by Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One boss, to yank the big race from Melbourne and award it to some other, more compliant city. His latest edict insists that in order to attract a European audience, the race will have to be staged at night from next year on. Tim Holding, the Major Events Minister, is holding out.

Part of the problem is that the race is not held at a permanent race track. It circles Albert Park, a residential area well within the confines of the city. Staging the event is a logistical challenge, involving the creation of a temporary town complete with three TV towers, 3000 concrete barriers, gravel, paint, marquees, bars, potted plants, tents, fences etc. Over 50,000 tons of equipment needs to be trucked from the storage yard in Altoona to Albert Park for an event that lasts four days.

Despite all this, it would appear that the great race is losing money hand over fist, and has been for quite some time. In other words, it is being subsidized by taxpayers. Kevin Barnett, the man in charge of logistics, said that losing the great race would be like losing the Great Barrier Reef. It is an odd analogy, but most Victorians are loathe to let the thing go. The government’s last offer is eighty million and a five pm start.  No more, no later.  Bernie’s holding out for  7 pm.

Despite the obvious attraction of the classy cars, the high testosterone drivers and the grid girls hired by the truckload to hang out and decorate the track, some of the letters to the editor have been downright cantankerous. Charles Meo writes: “I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that the long-suffering Victorian taxpayer has endured the depredations of Bernie Ecclestone long enough….Let’s find a better way to put Victoria on the map.”

An Easter “entertainment” that contributes little more than noise and pollution and squanders huge amounts of petrol for four days might not make sense anymore. According to recent studies, peak oil may be past us already. There will be little or no new oil production beyond 2012 and we are looking at a 30 percent reduction in world production by the year 2020.

This is at a time when demand is increasing exponentially. China and India are building automobiles like crazy. Oil was only $20 a barrel six years ago. It is now over $100 and climbing. Doesn’t that require some fundamental shift in thinking?

The time for gratuitously wasteful “bread and circuses” is over.  Take it away. Bernie.