L.L. Sontag in conversation with environmental biologist and her partner Dr. Chas.
Every time we have an increase in gas prices, we develop new efficient technology, such as more fuel-efficient cars, or social changes like bicycle commuting, carpooling, and choosing to take mass transit. Sadly all those efficient systems are neglected a year or two after the spike in prices drops.
In the 1970s, we had a spike in gas prices that started in 1973 through about 1981. During that period of time, we developed very efficient cars and imported efficient European and Japanese cars. After the Iraq/Iran war gas prices dropped, and Americans began to purchase big cars again. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait & Desert Storm in 1990 caused a spike in gas prices again, and GM developed the Geo Metro that got 50 mpg and their all-electric EV1. But by 1999, the gas prices had fallen again. GM scrapped their EV1, dumped Geo, and went into Hummers H1’s that got ten mpg. After September 11, 2001, the prices spiked again as the US invaded Iraq, followed by the American occupation, and the devastation of Katrina. Instead of committing to efficient cars, we go on these “FAD Diets” that we stop when the spike ends.
We need a different policy. We should no longer subsidize the fossil fuel industry, so they can continue to harm the planet. We’re being forced to drive farther and farther in order to just work. Cheap gas has not helped us, in fact, it has harmed us.
We need (1) mass transit, (2) jobs by our houses, and (3) shorter work weeks. These changes will work better for all of us, and will mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and lessen the effect of the climate crisis.