I filled the TT's tank with gas yesterday; for the first time that I can recall, it cost me more than $50. But, I hadn't bought gas since December 1st - three full months. I used the gas to visit my brother in the South Bay. He just bought a house and was going to rent it out, so I was going to help him clean it up. But when I got there, the new tenants were already moving in! The tenants had just moved from England, and needed a new (left-drive) car. They bought a BMW M6 convertible; EPA says 11 miles per gallon city, 17 highway. Damn.
When I was living in suburban Boston, I filled the tank once every other week, almost without fail. Now, living in Berkeley, I've now driven a total of 1,000 miles since moving in June. When Donna and I moved, I know we had hoped to reduce our carbon footprint, and I think it has been a tremendous success. What's great is that we really don't think about it, or even go out of our way to be "green". Our life style is simply more green, mostly because it asks less of the world: we need less heat, we need less gas, much more of our food is locally grown, and my commute is a two minute walk.
In all the recent talk about climate change and alternative energy, I still don't feel like there's been a strong call for conservation. Maybe cause I remember the days of Jimmy Carter and gas lines there just doesn't seem to be any kind of public urgency. Though there has been talk of CFL bulbs and hybrid cars, I still don't think there has not been a big and specific call for energy conservation. One big reason, I suppose, is that the "economic climate" has taken the headlines, and forced a kind of built-in conservation; when people save money, they save energy. But, I also have a hard time imagining pulling out a this economic recession tail-spin without spending our way out.
But I still have this big fear that there are those who believe we can spend our way out of this climate crisis, rather than save our way out. In other words: drive a more efficient car, not fewer miles; change your hardware not your software. And while I agree that we need to have more efficient "life accessories" (houses, cars, big appliances), ultimately, we need to change the way we approach life.
We did recently rent a Prius Hybrid, and I am convinced that these hybrid drives are not the answer. Perhaps because we drive so little now, that we barely felt the "upgrade" from 25 to 40 mpg. But the car felt cheap, and it drove like a bus; it did not have the feel of a better product. And I know that the petroleum "investment" in this product has got to be significantly higher than in other products because there is more in it: batteries, rotors, control systems, etc. Whereas the car we have does not require very much more investment in the product itself, other than, perhaps, getting new tires and filters. From every angle, I think our best economic and climatic choice is to keep our cars, keep them in good shape, make them as efficient as possible, and drive them less.
We may have arrived at these "tipping points" simultaneously, creating a situation in which good decision-making is much harder. My conclusion is that this is truly a fork in the road: our economic activity imperils our planet's health and we may have to choose one or the other. We cannot have both, and my concern is that at this point, we are all going to choose the selfish, "short-term gain" path of economic growth. If this is the case, I believe that conservation is going to be even more important down the road - but we need to be talking about it now.