Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Silver lining

I know this is obvious but I want to post it anyway:

No doubt about it, there’s a lot of bad news. But as the cliché has it, every cloud has a silver lining.

The high price of gasoline has done what years of dire warnings have failed to do — get Americans to change their driving habits.

Air and water pollution? Global warming? Sending our dollars to unfriendly countries and corrupt regimes? That wasn’t enough to get our attention. Now that the money is coming out of our pockets, Americans are doing what environmentalists and others have been urging for years: saving energy.

The gas crisis has generated a fundamental shift in attitude. A friend recently told me she used to do errands whenever she thought of them. “Now I combine them, and map them all out so I don’t drive extra miles,” she said. “And I walk whenever I can. I’ve made it part of my exercise routine.”

More cars have their windows open and the air-conditioning off, despite the heat. People are carpooling to work and school. College students who live off campus are enrolling in online classes to save on the commute. GM has stopped making the once wildly popular Hummers.

It's from an article published on Common Dreams entitled "Gas Shock’s Silver Lining" by Deborah Leavy.

UPDATE: Here's something else on the same subject I just found:

A nice little side-effect: Greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced immediately, with future gains as new technologies come on-stream. Those who care about climate change, the fate of the planet, etc., should be pleased with this.

A somewhat less obvious benefit is the smack in the face urban planners are about to receive. As the cost of transportation rises, people will value housing nearer to their work. Urban design that brings homes, shops and employers closer together — and allows people to get around on feet and bicycle wheels — will flourish. Suburban monocultures and soul-crushing commutes will slowly shrivel.

High oil prices will also challenge China’s unhealthy dominance of global manufacturing. Why do cheap Chinese goods flood every market from Nome to Nigeria? In part, because cheap oil made global transport cheap — and so the fact that Chinese factories are very far away from the markets they swamp didn’t add much to the cost of Chinese goods. Soon, it will matter. And local manufacturers will get a little breathing room.

It’s the same story on food production. With cheap oil, it didn’t matter whether apples are grown 100 miles from the consumer or 10,000. With expensive oil, it will. And local farmers will reap the rewards.

I especially like the part about the challenge to China's manufacturing dominance.

The above excerpt is from an article entitled "Rendering The Old World Obsolete" by Dan Gardner.

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