Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Everything We Didn't Do

As everyone knows, energy costs have been climbing steadily for several years. Gone are the days when I could fill my Toyota for $12. The last time I filled it, the tab was over $40.

As gasoline prices topped $4 per gallon, behaviors started to change. More bicycles, more scooters, and fewer SUVs and trucks are seen on the streets today than a year ago. As a result of actual behavior change on the part of Americans, prices have fluttered down a bit. After all, oil producers don't want to kill the goose who laid the golden egg by starving it; they want the goose to be fat-- if not happy.

In a previous post I lamented the switch in behaviors and policies after the energy crisis of the late 1970s. In last week's NY Times, Thomas Freidman posted an article entitled Flush with Energy. I didn't read this article when it came out, but this morning I realized it had been the most e-mailed article for several days in a row. Hmmm... if that many readers are interested enough to forward, I should read this.

Wow... Freidman's article chronicles changes in every-use behaviors in Denmark-- more bicycles, more wind energy, taxes to discourage oil dependence, and incentives to encourage develop of new green technologies. The Danes did everything we didn't do. With these changes, Denmark has gone from 99% dependence on foreign oil in 1973 to 0% today.

Pan across the ocean to the US, where we started to change our behaviors in the 1970s, and then went back to our old ways (and beyond) after Ronald Reagan's don't-worry-be-happy administration. Several Democratic presidential candidates have talked about behavior change and incentives for green energy. No one has mentioned the T word (taxes) or the S word (sacrifice), though. It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds in the future-- especially this winter.

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