Despite worsening problems with climate disruption and air pollution, politicians and individuals have kept making bad transportation choices for decades. As a result, we’ve got an unsustainable transportation system full of single-passenger gas-guzzling vehicles, and the only “solution” that politicians have been able to unite around is ethanol, which worsens global hunger and nutrient runoff without producing net energy savings.
There’s a little bit of good news, though. Recent stories suggest that the negative consequences of bad gas choices are finally starting to steer consumers and politicians towards better options:
Backing off ethanol: 24 Senate Republicans, including Senator John McCain, have written to EPA to suggest it waive or restructure rules requiring increased ethanol production. These rules exist, of course, because Congress legislated 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol by 2015 and 36 billion by 2022 and created subsidies for it; but of course it’s better that they admit their mistake than allow the program to continue. Democratic lawmakers should get behind rolling back ethanol requirements and subsidies, too.
Rejecting a bad gas-tax-holiday idea: In their presidential campaigns, Senator McCain proposed a gas-tax holiday during the summer, and Senator Hillary Clinton added her backing to the idea – a very bad idea, given that cheap oil prices have encouraged us to make unsustainable transportation choices, and rising prices at the pump are one of the few reliable ways to promote greater efficiency. More polled voters oppose the idea than support it (49 vs. 45%), showing that nearly half of Americans have figured out that a small amount of short-term relief isn’t worth it in the long run.
Choosing more fuel-efficient cars: Now that gas prices are approaching (and, in some places, passing), $4 a gallon, consumers are finally starting to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. In April, one in five vehicles sold in the U.S. was a compact or subcompact car; when SUV popularity was at its peak, that figure was only one in eight. Plus,the more-efficient four-cylinder engines surpassed their six-cylinder counterparts. Maybe this will teach the big U.S. automakers to stop putting so much emphasis on gas guzzlers.