I’ve been reading about the efforts to ban or severely limit drilling for gas, oil and mining for coal. Driving coal operators out of business even has the endorsement of former United Mine Worker president Richard Trumka, who now heads the AFL-CIO. Oil drilling has always worried people and now the great gas finds in Appalachia, tapped by a process (not new) called fracking, has environmentalists in a frenzy.
It’s all about the environment and pollution, of course, and all about supporting solar energy and windmills even if they kill hundreds of thousands of birds. There’s a cost for everything. All this is very controversial and leading to much political turmoil. It need not be that way. There’s a better and cleaner and simpler way. Restrict the ownership of cars.
Think about it: cars are an abomination. They kill nearly 40,000 people a year and injure millions. Cars contribute to crime and not just because cars get stolen. Cars give criminals mobility. That’s dangerous and costly to the police who try to keep criminals under control. Old folks used to complain that cars were mobile bedrooms and sexually threatening to young people. However, if you are concerned about pollution, the car is it.
We’ve been selling at least five and a half million new cars a year. It was double that a little more than 20 years ago. Some of those cars are still running. Anyway, in Florida we have almost 900 vehicles per 1,000 population which means that almost everyone has a car. Think what we could accomplish by limiting families to one car. Not all at once and with exceptions, of course. Worry about pollution causing drilling and mining would diminish because market forces would do the job.
Getting more specific, such a plan would:
• Save money. Less money spent on purchasing and maintaining a vehicle could be used to buy other goods and, more importantly, be used to fund government interests like schools, the military, medical care and poverty programs.
• Fewer dollars would be spent on funerals and medical care, and insurance.
• Conserve precious resources. Less gasoline and oil would be used. Fewer tires made means less pollution. Less of all of that means less use of oil, gasoline or natural gas. The need for fewer vehicles would mean less manufacturing, less ozone destruction and other related problems.
• Decrease in highway construction. Fewer cars, less need for expensive and often environmentally destructive highways. Fewer animals displaced, less ground pollution, and, ultimately a cooler Earth.
• Migration back to the cities. Without wheels eventually people would begin moving back into the cities which are inherently more efficient. It would return the suburbs to open fields, more wildlife, a better quality of life.
• Mass transit development. There would be an immediate need for mass transit. Not only a need, but a level of use that would be more self-sustaining than it is. Trains, buses, planes, would be needed. That would boost the economy and help balance jobs lost in the auto industry.
How would it be done? Political will is critical as well as public consent. Ultimately, however, it is government that has to. They could order it because it would be for the public good and, like the medical care program, it requires public participation in order to work. It should pass the legal test.
For the public it’s a question of whether they love their cars or Mother Earth more.