Saturday, August 30, 2008

Energy Tipping Point?

Just months ago, jumping into our gas-guzzlers to go anywhere from a three-minute drive to a couple of days drive seemed normal. Really normal, so much so that to consider anything else didn’t cross our minds. You bought the vehicle you could afford, meaning the sticker price. Then the gas crisis hit and we all paused because what fueled our vehicles was draining our pockets. For all the talk about Global Warming and air pollution and all the environmental stuff, it was the sharp rise in energy prices that changed our behavior. The story below about the drop in NYS Thruway use is an indication of an energy tipping point—the point at which the public will drastically change their driving habits. Bicycling increased, more walked, more car pooled, more bought scooters, more did less driving gas guzzling vehicles.

That’s a fact. Beyond all the arguments about whether we should continue using fossil fuels to fuel our moving about and how to go about changing our behavior towards the planet because the wide-spread use of fossil fuel warms our planet is this clear indisputable fact that all positions on energy use must accept: When the gas prices hit a certain point, people will change their behavior and begin using alternate ways to get around.

We learned a lesson in the last several months about our behavior—a get-in-your-face fact that many of us would not have considered before. We can and will change our lives if something so ubiquitous and jumping into our cars to get around changes radically.

But, what will that lesson be?

For me, when the gas prices hit $3.50 a gallon I left my car (which gets about 25 miles per gallon) in the garage and drove my wife’s car, which gets about 40 miles per gallon. And, I biked to the library and walked to the corner store, Now that the gas prices are going down, should I begin driving that car again? Or should I sell it to someone else who has given up their 10 mile an hour behemoth and considers my car a godsend?

Are we going to go back to our old habits of recklessly burning fossil fuels to get around—as we did back in the 70’s after the gas lines ended, or are we really going to change.?
My guess is that our sense of priorities is focused on our short-term needs and the long-term problem of energy use and its consequences will disappear as soon as the financial threat has appeared to disappear. My guess is that we won’t change to a responsible form of energy until we have to. My guess is that we’ll listen to the siren’s call from the fossil fuel producers that “everything will be fine now and don’t worry your pretty little heads.”

I may be wrong. Maybe we got it this time. Check below: - Use of Thruway down Fewer people are using the New York State Thruway. State records show nearly two million fewer cars and trucks traveled on the thruway in June and July compared to the same time last year. State officials blame the economy and high prices at the pump. (Aug. 27, 08) - Rochester, NY News, Weather, Sports, Health, Investigative, Entertainment

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