Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Energy solutions require Americans to do what isn’t natural to them

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Originally published on on Thu, 08/07/2008 – 2:14pm

People are getting rid of their cars or they are keeping their cars but driving less, thanks to the price of gas. Me — well, I’ve been ahead of the game for awhile. I don’t have a car, and haven’t had one for a few years now. I do have a tire pressure gauge, just in case.

Now you might say, “well, you live in a big city, so you shouldn’t have to have a car.” Yeah, that’s true. But there are still plenty of cars left in this big city, and a public transportation system, while very thorough, isn’t moving as fast as it should these days.

I’ve been a public transportation rat for years. I’ve been on Amtrak, Greyhound, Indian Trails bus, and Megabus. I took a trip to Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver a month ago and rode (besides airplanes), light rail, streetcar, and buses in Portland; buses and the monorail in Seattle; buses, Skytrain, and Seabus in Vancouver; and Amtrak in between the cities.

I do rent a car by the hour on occasion in the city a few times a year for extensive grocery trips. But I like relying on public transportation. I’ve been a champion of high-speed rail.

While I don’t drive, my transportation costs have risen, and my food costs have climbed considerably. But I don’t suffer the everyday pain that most Americans have felt. So perhaps I don’t have the best seat for observing the energy crisis.

But as a former driver, I do remember that Americans like to get into their cars and just go — somewhere, anywhere. They don’t want to have to think about tire pressure, even if it takes just a few minutes to do so, and it will save a lot of money.

They rationally can tell you that going the speed limit, especially on the highway, saves money. But it won’t happen because the perception is that they won’t get there in as fast a time as possible, as if that was the only marker that matters.

I was watching/fast-forwarding through “Smokey and the Bandit” last week. I have seen the movie, hence the fast-forwarding during the love scenes, but hadn’t seen it in quite awhile. The comforting part of the movie was that the concept was extremely simple, and yet so American: drive really fast in a really cool sports car, running interference for a semi full of bootleg beer, all for a simple bet.

I realized that in watching the movie, if it were made in 2008, the missing scene would have been something like this.

Bandit (Burt Reynolds): We’re going to drive to Texarkana and back in 28 hours with 700 cases of beer.

Snowman (Jerry Reed): Are you crazy. Do you know how much gas costs these days? To do it that fast, we have to drive really fast, so our gas mileage will go down the tubes.

Bandit: Good point. Plus, if we get caught, the laws are more strict so they probably would impound the car and the truck.

Snowman: Guess we’ll stay home and watch NASCAR.

Bandit: Yeah, it will be more fun watching others burn gas for no reason than for us to do it ourselves.

Watching movies from the 1970s is fun because people just moved freely from one place to another just to see what it was like. If there was an electric car that was as easy to use as a gasoline car (convenience), and could travel hundreds of miles at a time, even conservatives would jump on board.

Even if electric cars were limited to major cities, the resulting drop in pollution would help significantly, and allow more gas for those who need or want to travel longer distances.

But for John McCain and Republicans, they feel making fun of solutions that work is more fun than actually solving problems. And unfortunately, Republicans score political points with that because they know their audience agrees with that mentality.

So yes, tire gauges and proper speed limits do save gasoline, and therefore, money. But changing habits is a lot more difficult to do. Drilling for oil doesn’t require any effort on the part of ordinary Americans, and so it’s the easy solution. Barack Obama’s job is convincing Americans to do things they don’t like to do, even if it saves them money.


Written by democracysoup

August 7, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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