A War on Oil Dependence

Photo credit: Ray Maker, DCRainmaker blog

We’ve had “wars” on poverty, drugs, and terrorism, why not oil dependence? Imagine a bold president challenging and inspiring us to reduce our use of oil by 20% in ten years. Why wait for that type of leadership? Let’s just commit to driving two percent fewer miles, per year, for ten years.

Dare we learn some things from other people in other places, like this Amsterdam family? Note the obvious: the fenders and racks; the large kid/cargo holder; the simplicity of the bikes and bike riders; no lycra, helmets, or cleated shoes; the utter normalness of it. With dedicated lanes and slowish bikes, helmets aren’t as critical. And the less obvious: the slower pace, the reduction in greenhouse gasses, the health benefits and reduced health care costs, the vitality of the sights, sounds, and elements.

City planners need to incentive bicycle commuting by integrating dedicated bike lanes, and safe, well-lit bicycle parking lots into their designs. Cities need to provide employers with incentives for bike lockers, air compressors, showers.

Car insurance should be based upon mileage traveled. Find the national average and set rates so that people who drive the national average pay existing rates. Make people self-report and audit a small percentage each year. People that drive 10% more than the national average, pay 10% more; 10% fewer miles, pay 10% less.

A nod to Friedman, raise the gas tax to $1/gallon.

I would love for someone to point me to counter examples, but our public bus systems are painfully inconvenient and slow. And unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a handful of our largest cities, subways and trains are rarely a viable option.

In the U.S. we like to pat ourselves on our collective back for being creative and hardworking, but we’ve shown no imagination or gumption when it comes to developing genuine alternatives to car travel.

Time to change that.

2 thoughts on “A War on Oil Dependence

  1. I showed President Carter’s “malaise” speech to a class studying consumerism, and in retrospect it was not only prescient, but indeed a call for a war on oil dependence. Carter may have even used the metaphor of war, and set plans to radically cut demand and improve alternatives. People preferred Ronald Reagan’s “we can have it all” approach and dumped Carter.

    Then oil prices fell and people forgot about it.

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