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Easing The Pain Caused by High Fuel Prices


Photo by whatatravisty.

With oil prices hovering around $135 a barrel, many Americans are feeling uneasy about the future. And for good reason; higher prices at the pump channel money away from things like health care, education, and leisure activities that improve our quality of life.

But there’s an upside – during hard times Americans are pushed to innovate and come up with new systems for solving the problems that face them. Below are three solutions to the problem of skyrocketing fuel prices. If implemented, they will have the added value of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, improving public health, and curtailing over-consumption:

  1. Build high-density, mixed-use cities – The vast majority of American cities are built for cars, creating what urban planners call sprawl, low-density areas where people spend too much time and money driving to conduct their daily activity. Cities built around people and walking as opposed to cars and driving have things like single family housing, apartments, grocery stories, office space and retail all within walking distance, eliminating the daily need to get behind the wheel. The rise of New Urbanism in places like Kentlands, Maryland, and the revitalization of American inner cities in places like Chicago, New York, and Washington DC suggests that more and more Americans want a lifestyle that favors short walking trips over long car commutes.
  2. Invest in Mass Transit – Americans are flocking to mass transit in ever greater numbers. At 10.3 billion trips last year, mass transit ridership in the United States is at its highest level since 1957. To match this growing demand, cities should invest money to maintain and expand their mass transit systems. One practical way to do this is to charge car drivers for using the most congested roads and use this revenue to fund mass transit projects. London, Singapore, and Stockholm all have congestion pricing programs which have been wildly successful and, counter to conventional wisdom, popular among residents.
  3. Invest in Cycling Facilities – Increasingly cycling is becoming popular among commuters making short trips around cities. But the spike in the number of city cyclists has yet to be followed by a supply of cycling facilities like bike lanes and bike parking. In many cities cyclists have to compete with cars for road space, a dangerous proposition that drives potential cyclists off their bikes and back into cars. By building special cycle lanes that are physically separated from traffic, cities can make cycling a viable, low-cost form of transit. Cycling can also be instrumental in countering chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity, which are now afflicting large swaths of the sedentary American population. Paris, among other cities, has taken cycling a step above the rest, creating a bike sharing program with 15,000 bicycles available at a moments notice for anyone with a credit card. American cities should take note.

So far, the response from politicians on Capitol Hill has been anything but inspiring. Many politicians have disingenuously claimed that we don’t need to change our behavior and can “drill our way out of this problem.” Or that we can apply enough pressure on oil-rich countries, who will then turn against their own self-interests and ramp up production. Or that high fuel standards and alternative fuels like ethanol, which just suffered a huge setback with the Iowa floods, will make all our problems go away.

But in one corner of Washington there seem to be a few people in touch with the rest of Americans who are now bearing the brunt of rising fuel costs. On Capitol Hill, Earl Blumenauer, a Democratic Congressman from Portland, recently spoke out because he couldn’t find a parking spot in the garage of the Rayburn House of Representatives office building. So many Hill staffers now cycle to work that Mr. Blumenauer, for the first time ever, couldn’t find a space on the bike rack to lock his road bike.

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  • CW

    The best thing we can do is get the government off their drug trip and grow a crop that works. Industrial hemp is useless as a drug but it can provide over 50,000 products more environmentally friendly than products in use today. This single plant can provide all the basic necessities of human life, food, clothing, building material and fuel. Don’t let them lie to you about the land, there is plenty of farm land. We have over 100 million total farm acres in the USA and only use about half. The half that’s not being planted is way more than enough to grow ALL our fuel. Not only that but the government is still paying farmers not to plant. Watch the video titled “HEMP FUEL Can Supply All Our Energy Needs” and read the article titled “Marijuana Facts The Government Does Not Want You To Know” on the website referenced at the bottom of this post.
    Hemp requires no pesticides, no herbicides, and only moderate amounts of fertilizer.
    Hemp can produce several different kinds of fuel. In the 1800’s and 1900’s hempseed oil was the primary source of fuel in the United States and was commonly used for lamps and other oil energy needs. The diesel engine was originally designed to run on hemp oil because Rudolf Diesel assumed that it would be the most common fuel. Hemp is also the most efficient plant for the production of methanol. It is estimated that, in one form or another, hemp grown in the United States could provide up to ninety percent of the nation’s entire energy needs.
    Source: Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
    Hemp is 4 times more efficient than corn as biofuel. Hemp pellets can be used to produce clean electricity.
    … so powerful it could replace every type of fossil fuel energy product (oil, coal, and natural gas).
    … This plant is the earth’s number one biomass resource or fastest growing annual plant for agriculture on a worldwide basis, producing up to 14 tons per acre. This is the only biomass source available that is capable of producing all the energy needs of the U.S. and the world…
    Hemp will produce cleaner air and reduce greenhouse gases. When biomass fuel burns, it produces CO2 (the major cause of the greenhouse effect), the same as fossil fuel; but during the growth cycle of the plant, photosynthesis removes as much CO2 from the air as burning the biomass adds, so hemp actually cleans the atmosphere. After the first cycle there is no further loading to the atmosphere…
    Source: USA Hemp Museum

    Read the article titled “Marijuana Facts The Government Does Not Want You To Know”,
    Internet Explorer:
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  • I agree with Dave. The current bike lanes are dangerous, as unaware drivers swing their doors open. That was how Clint Miceli was killed a couple weeks short of his 23rd birthday. ( FYI- Washington DC is implementing the same bike program as Paris, calling it the SmartBike program.(

  • Nice… of course it is a Congressman from Portland who is biking! As far as improving biking facilities, I agree that if you want to see an up-tick in biking use then truly bike lanes are needed. By true lanes I mean “cycle tracks” which are between the sidewalk and the parking lane. This format has the impact of encouraging more biking as it feels much safer than a painted line protecting you. And it improves the pedestrian experience by getting bikes of the sidewalks, adding more distance between the sidewalk and the auto lanes, and it slows traffic by give the appearance of a narrower lane.