Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Built For the Road Ahead

With Peak Oil and Climate Change looming on the horizon, the road ahead will be far different than the one behind. Or, it may be very much like the one behind - many decades behind. There is no doubt it will be different.

I recently plowed through David Sandalow's Freedom from Oil: How the Next President Can End the United States' Oil Addiction, which details what some of those differences may be. Despite its consideration of biofuels (seen in environmental circles as major bust), the book is a persuasive read because it aims to convince everyone - left and right wing - that America needs to cap the tank. Indeed, the book sets forth six reasons for transitioning off gasoline and only one relates to the environment. As No Impact Man recently wrote "[s]ometimes you have to bring issues home to people in the way that gets them the most." The goal, ultimately, is to get off gas - the reasons people decide to ditch oil doesn't matter. How we do it, though, is a bit of a muddy road and the book mostly pushes technological advances, tax rebates and such. This is a job for government and we can only hope the next President pays attention.

Freedom from Oil maps how the government weans us off oil. Unfortunately, our government is slow to agree and even slower to act. We need to push our officials to make these difficult decisions but we are not without power while we wait. Finding alternative modes of transportation is my personal Achilles heel (and scored second in last week's side-bar poll regarding major changes in 2008). Here are a few things that have worked for me. Now I just need to do them more consistently:

Become an Efficiency Expert: Think your week or the next few days out in advance and group errands together by location. Do you really have to drive all the way to Target (fraught with its own issues) or can you pick up what you need at the local drug store? Re-examine your family schedules. I dropped gymnastics for my son to save on gas and we were both happier with more down time.

Raise Your Right Foot: A few months back, there was some discussion on the 90 Percent Reduction group about an old slogan: "If you want to save gas, raise your right foot." The slogan was aimed at stopping speeding but one Riot member thought it referred to walking. That thought stuck with me. Walking requires no capital investment, has no emissions, burns calories, is healthy and can be very relaxing. Some of my favorite "date nights" with Mr. Green Bean consist of walking downtown to dinner and a frozen yogurt. Think about the places you could walk to, raise your right foot and go.

Slim Your Critical Mass, Move Your *ss: Bicycle to work, errands, school, a friend's house, wherever. The capital investment is minimal - especially if you score a sweet secondhand ride like I did and the health benefits are huge. Of course, you have to have some confidence to ride a bike and that is what I'm lacking. I weeble, I wobble and I eventually get to where I'm going. It is relaxing though and I vow this year to gain some competence on the bike and bomb around town a bit more.

Take the Freedom Train: Or bus, or subway, or whatever mass transit is available. Freedom from what? The obligation to do something. When someone else is steering, you get to relax, sit back, read a book, listen to music, knit, do crosswords, clean out your wallet, snooze, whatever. Plus, it is often cheaper to take mass transit than to maintain and gas up a car.
Here's my challenge to you and to myself. Pick one transportation-related change and try it once a month. We may find we enjoy it so much that we are doing weekly or even daily. We may find that we really are built for the road ahead.

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