So far energy conservation hasn't been a major focus of the discussion here in Oregon. But a statewide conservation program, designed to significantly reduce consumption of fossil fuels, would easily and inexpensively complement the proposals that have been offered. There has been little recognition of the value of energy conservation at the federal level, leaving it up to the states, in the spirit of creative federalism, to develop their own approaches to overcoming the “national addiction” to oil.
My modest proposal is to encourage each
- Encouraging Oregonians to refrain from driving their cars one day per week.
Families could plan their weeks so that travel by car would be unnecessary during whichever day they choose as their Car-Free Day. For most of us, it would be easiest to begin on weekends, though the Car-Free Day would then provide less relief from heavy volumes of urban traffic on weekdays. As the concept gains currency, though, increasing numbers of drivers could explore alternative ways to commute to work by bus, carpool, bicycle, streetcar, train or foot.
- Encouraging Oregonians to exercise more and explore their own communities on their Car-Free Day.
Everyone would benefit from more exercise, but the Car-Free Day would offer a less obvious advantage: relief from the growing stress of driving, especially with the increasing volumes of traffic here in the
- The plan would be voluntary, informal and flexible, with no government supervision at any level. It could begin with a simple proclamation by the governor or legislative resolution followed by a press release and appropriate publicity (2).
The voluntary Car-Free Day could be implemented at no cost to taxpayers and without negative impacts on
The economic advantages of even a modest conservation program could prove substantial. Consider, for example, that the
A national Car-Free Day each week could potentially reduce oil consumption by 14%, or about 1.23 million barrels a day. Annualized, the savings would be enormous: 420 million barrels or $25.2 billion. Even if the program at its inception reduced consumption by only 5%, the economy would save $15 billion, with proportionate benefits to
The environmental benefits would be even more impressive, though it’s difficult to place an economic value on air made more breathable though reduced emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, benzene, particulates and other pollutants. A study by the National Academy of Sciences showed that a reduction in oil consumption of 1.2 million barrels a day, similar to what I’m proposing, would reduce pollutants associated with global warming by 50 million metric tons by 2015.
Surveys show that Americans are eager to support efforts to achieve energy independence, but they have been given little sense of direction by the current administration. The weekly Car-Free Day would strengthen
NOTES AND SOURCES
(2) No, this program would never be mandatory, with the government deciding who can or can't drive and on what day. Years ago I adopted my own Car-Free Day (usually Sundays), and it has yielded unexpected benefits on many levels. But that's the subject for a future blog.
CIA World Factbook: United States (2006)
Online at: https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/print/us.html
Putting the brakes on Environmental Defense
John DeCicco with Rod
Online at: http://www.environmentaldefense.org/