Monday, July 23, 2007


Global warming: let's not rush into anything

In today's news:
The fervor to do something about global warming has reached new heights this summer, as huge crowds worldwide vowed to reduce carbon emissions during Live Earth concerts on every continent. These days, everyone from Wal-Mart to the Vatican is going green.

But the reality has been very different on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Last month, supporters of a plan requiring utilities to produce 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources - solar, wind, biomass - said they had more than 50 votes. But they didn't have 60, the hurdle an idea must clear in the Senate to remain alive, so that proposal did not even come up for a vote.

The Senate did take a significant action by voting to increase fuel efficiency in new vehicles by 40 percent to average 35 mpg by 2020, long a legislative goal of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. It would be the first time Congress has imposed standards in 32 years - but so far, the House has yet to take any action.
So the big "action" taken by the Senate (not the House) is to ask for vehicles to get 35 mpg...13 years from now. But remember, that's the standard for new vehicles being sold. The average age of cars on the road is around ten years, so for this change to accomplish anything, even if passed today (which, to repeat, it wasn't), changes (in just this one area) wouldn't take full effect for another 20 years. Well, heck, it's been 32 years since any update in these standards anyway; wouldn't want to rush.

As discussed in a previous post, what's really needed is a massive increase in mass transit. Instead of that, however, the trend towards increasing fares on existing mass transit systems (and hence decreasing ridership) increases, because they have to "pay for themselves." Mass transit has to be massively available, and free, if we're serious about decreasing dependency of the burning of fossil fuels.

A massive increase in availability of mass transit would probably take decades (although plenty could be done in short order to expand existing service), but making mass transit free could be done overnight. In fact, I know exactly where we can find $144 billion in the coming year to fund it.

Why stop here? There's more...

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