National Tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico
Two hundred thousand gallons of oil spill daily into the Gulf of Mexico, destroying the beaches of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas as a result of the BP oil platform explosion of April 20. News viewers witness oil explosions, fires, and destruction. Containment chemicals are dumped where fish were caught for our dinner tables. Billions of dollars of damage is done. Major ports of our nation’s commerce are threatened. We are again reminded of the damage that oil can do to our environment. United States Response to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
Oil addiction also hurts our economy. In 2008, oil prices dipped to $32 per barrel. Now oil prices are over $80 per barrel, on the way to being triple the 2008 low. While oil companies argue that we are not running out of oil, they should be admitting that we can no longer find cheap oil. Instead, it is now billion-dollar deep-drilling ocean platforms, the highly destructive strip mining of Canada for tar sands, and unconventional sources with high greenhouse gas emissions that brings us our incremental oil that we convert into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and asphalt to widen roads for more cars.
And we continue sending trillions of dollars to parts of the world where people want to do us harm. With rising oil prices we are sending more money for less oil.
To the rescue, since 2005, Americans have used less oil by riding clean, riding together, and riding less. In 2005, we consumed 20,802,000 barrels per day; by 2008, 19,498,000 daily barrels (EIA Data). Consumption continues to drop.
Ten Solutions to Save at the Pump
1. Employer Commute and Flexwork Programs. Major employers are saving employees billions in travel costs. Employers sponsor ride sharing, last mile shuttles from transit, and guaranteed ride homes. Some employers have web sites and lunch-and-learns to help employees in the same zip codes match-up for car pooling. 57 million Americans work at home, at least part-time, with the help of flexwork programs. Employer programs have helped with reduced car ownership.
2. Public Transit. Americans made 11 billion trips on U.S. transit in 2008, a 50-year record. Use has dropped some due to transit operators being forced to cut some routes and remove buses as the recession drove down local sales tax revenues needed for public transit. Americans are eager for more and better transit.
3. Walk. On an average we take 4 car trips daily, compared to 2 in Europe. Sometimes 1 of those 4 trips can be a pleasant walk to market, neighbors, or school event.
4. Safe Routes. Thousands of communities across the nation are showing us how to safely walk to school, community centers, and to public transit. Route maps go on line, pot holes get fixed, sidewalks repaired, danger spots eliminated, and signs displayed. Walk to School Days are on the increase.
5. One Car Households. The average suburban U.S. household has two vehicles. Some more. The average urban U.S. household has one vehicle. More American families and roommates are going from three cars to two cars to one car.
6. Sharing the Gas Miser. Households with 2 or more vehicles increasingly share cars, putting the most miles on the fuel miser as the gas guzzler stays parked more often. My wife and I share the hybrid, when not using transit, and leave the other car parked 6 days per week.
7. Make your next Car a Fuel Miser. You now have a wide-range of car choices that get over 30 miles per gallon. There is no reason to settle for less when you buy or lease a fuel-efficient sedan, hatchback, even SUV, turbo diesel, CNG, or hybrid car. Top 10 Cars With Lowest Carbon Footprint
8. Order an Electric Car which is ideal for many who live in a city where 100-mile range is rarely an issue, and where transit, car sharing, and car rental are also available. The average U.S. suburban household has two vehicles, so the EV could be ideal as one of those two. Top 10 Electric Car Makers
9. Car Sharing. In 600 global cities, cars can be used by the hour. Car sharing is popular with individuals and fleets. At many university and colleges, students with good grades can participate at age 18. Add transit and bicycling and many students live car free.
10. Smart Apps for Smart Travel. Internet savvy people now use Google Maps, 511, car share apps, and smart phone GPS apps to compare car directions and time with public transit directions and time. With a few clicks on a social network a shared ride is arranged, or a shared car reserved. In the old millennium we got everywhere by solo driving in gridlock. In the new millennium we plan and use a mix of car driving, transit, and other modes to save time and money.
There are hundreds of ways to save at the pump, or avoid it all together. The above are a just a few as people shift from their only choice being driving a gas guzzler, to options that include ride sharing, car sharing, walking, bicycling, buses, and rail for some of their trips.
Waiting for Responsible Government
We can all make a big difference without waiting for responsible government action, but it would help. The cheapest way to end highway gridlock is to invest in public transportation. Instead government cuts funds for transit and spends billions widening highways. For oil companies, we allow them to drill off our invaluable shores, fight wars to protect their oil, and then put oil companies on welfare. As Forbes Magazine discussed on April 5, the most profitable company in the United States, Exxon, paid zero U.S. income tax in 2009.
At a time when the average U.S. tax payer is hurting, we need to end oil tax loopholes and ensure that the 4 million vehicles in government fleets are gas misers or electric. While a minority in Congress block all attempts at progress, local communities are taking action across the nation by making cities vibrant, with work, services, and play close at hand. Portland, Oregon, is a role model in creating urban density and great public transportation. California with SB375 is requiring regional plans that integrate development, transportation, and greenhouse gas reduction.
In the United States, we embarrassingly have more vehicles than people with driver’s licenses. We have 246 million vehicles. AAA estimates that it costs $8,000 per year for each car owned, which creates a financial burden on cash-strapped Americans. You can help your pocketbook and help the nation by riding clean, riding together, and riding less.