Friday, July 04, 2008

Lovin' under 60

Senator John Warner has reintroduced the idea (not a bill) of reducing the national speed limit, and that takes some political courage. There were no good reasons for lifting the speed limit from 55 in 1995, and I still consider it a strike against Bill Clinton's record. 55 had proven to be a success for 20 years as a law we could live with, in more ways than one.

Here's what I added to a forum at CNN on Senator Warner's act of prudent patriotism:

55 has always made sense for saving money, saving lives and conserving a non-renewable resource. Speeds under 60 remarkably lower pollution levels and reduce driving stress. To say otherwise suggests that impatience and waste are virtues, but we all know they're not. I recently took a long road trip never cruising above 60, and it seemed to me some other drivers were easing off on the pedal as well, more aware this summer of how much pushing down and pushing forward was costing them. Bring back 55, or at best, compromise at 60. Even as a Texan with a long way to go, I loved it then and will love it again.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Free gas!

OK, so I just got home Monday from a 4,650 mile road trip from west of Austin to Washington, DC, Pittsburgh, PA, and back. I never cruised above 62 and sometimes kept it just below 60 for long stretches. Let's figure I squeezed 25 miles per gallon out of that Chrysler mini van. That's 186 gallons of gas. At $4/gallon, that trip cost me $744 in gas alone.

The irony of it all: I took this trip to run a 350 mile bicycle tour for a dozen people, five of whom drove almost the same distance in two midsized sport utes and seven of whom flew round trip. Just think of all that fossil fuel to run an eight-day bike tour. We could never pedal far enough to make up the carbon footprint.

But the bottom line is: every day we don't drive, the gasoline in our own cars is free. And if we keep our driving to, say, just 10 miles a day, then a big yuppie beverage in a styrofoam cup costs more.

Make Independence Day a driveless, independence-from-cars day, and your gas is free.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Cheering on $5 gasoline

In an e-mail today from Frances Beineke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), members are asked to write to Congress asking that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other sensitive potential oil fields be protected. But the president brings in the high price of gasoline as a way to motivate would-be letter writers to act.

Here is what I wrote to the NRDC Action team:

Hello NRDC,

I have received Frances' letter asking us to write Congress asking the save ANWR. But she says high oil prices are a major problem. Evidence shows that high oil prices are the only thing that, in a major way and quickly, WILL get us to reduce our use of fossil fuels. In other words, in the short term, we NEED high fuel prices to reverse pollution, global warming and related concerns. I want the NRDC to be brave enough to say that oil and gasoline have been too cheap for too long and that we should welcome high oil prices and high fossil fuel prices in general (including natural gas and coal as well) and ask that, as in Europe, the U.S. government put additional taxes on the oil companies and on retail gasoline to raise the price per gallon even more. (As in Europe, the additional taxes would go toward developing and making more affordable cleaner fuel sources and technologies. Now THAT is progress!)

If human nature is any guide (and is there any other?), we can't have it both ways: we can't have cheap gas and genuine conservation. We can't have cheap gas and clean air or cheap gas and widespread efficiency. If fossil fuel is cheap, we will waste it. If it is expensive, we will conserve it, decrease our consumption and value it accordingly as a precious resource not to be squandered.

I challenge the NRDC to not participate in the hypocrisy of asking for cheap fossil fuels. I would like to hear from Francis or another NRDC representative regarding this fallacy.

Thanks very much,
Lawrence Walker
Kerrville, Texas