| viewpoint advances
PV to EV:
By DAVE ERB
During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, I heard outrage. But in 2008, when gasoline sup- plies were limited, I heard whimpering: “Please, take my money. Just let me fill my tank one more time.” Supply was a far bigger concern than price. We Americans imagine ourselves as
rugged pioneers. How did we become such frightened sheep?
Please skip the usual recitation of wolves: OPEC, Obama, National City Lines, NASCAR. They’re
not to blame. Big Oil drills in harsh (and sensitive) environments because we buy oil, at any price.
You’d think we have no choice.
But, more than anyone on earth, Americans have options. We don’t have to act like helpless
victims. It’s time to look in the mirror and embrace
our transportation energy problem. Own it, because
ownership is power. We can modify things we own,
creating the future.
There are numerous paths to sustainable transportation. For the least sacrifice, Americans should take
four steps, ranked here by effectiveness:
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Step 1: Reduce Vehicle-Miles Traveled (VMT)
Between 1950 and 2007, U.S. population doubled,
from 151 million to 301 million, while national VM T
rose more than sixfold, from 458 billion miles annually to more than 3 trillion miles. Per capita VMT
more than tripled, from 3,028 miles to 10,045 miles.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We start by choosing
to drive less, one decision at a time.
We all have ways to cut VMT without sacrificing
quality of life. We would all gain by spending less
time in traffic and less money pumping gas. Combine
errands, and make a few calls before hopping into the
car. Telecommute once a month to reduce driving
by 5 percent. The average American commutes 12
miles (one way) to work. Cutting that lowers VMT,
and could eliminate the need for motorized travel
outright. Most people can walk one mile, or ride a
bike two. Each year, one in six Americans changes
residence. Each of those relocations is an opportunity
to move closer to work, sending a message to developers and planners.
Step 2: Match Tools to Tasks
We can buy smaller cars, or ride bicycles, down-sizing vehicles so completely that payloads become
power plants. Or draft a neighbor to carpool, halving
fuel usage without spending or sweating.
Local authorities provide public transit largely for
social justice and economic efficiency, enabling nondrivers to get to jobs, doctors and groceries. The bus
will be on the street, whether or not car owners ride
it. From an energy standpoint, every extra person on
that bus rides free. Be the free rider.
Step 3: Electrify
Improved vehicles matter. Much of the required
technology will arrive naturally, due to changing
energy economics. But active consumer demand is
needed for one crucial shift: electrification.
While gasoline at the corner pump requires about