Sunday, June 01, 2008

Going Green Again

Ah, once again we live in a nation of people singing the praises of going green. It's happened before.

When the "environmental movement" went into high gear in the early 1970s, some Americans bought economy cars like the VW Beetle and some even started to use public transportation. The enthusiasm pretty much wore off until an oil embargo raised new alarms a few years later. When the embargo was lifted and gas availability and prices returned to normal, we went into a prolonged period of favoring gas-guzzling SUVs and over-sized trucks as our family vehicles.

But now, we are serious about going green. Gas prices are horrendous, and better days ahead are unlikely. Everywhere, we learn of Americans taking the pledge to reduce consumption and thus force prices back to more reasonable levels while combating air pollution at the same time. Could that work? Yes it could. Will it work? Probably not.

Last week Sandy and I made our monthly run to Idaho to help support schools in the great potato state by purchasing a lottery ticket. I decided to perform a little test to learn what greener gallivanting could achieve.

It's almost exactly a 180-mile roundtrip to our favorite lottery ticket peddler with all but a few yards of it on an interstate highway with a 75 mph speed limit. Usually, I set the cruise control on 77, turn on some great music, and cover most of the distance in the fast lane. This time, I cruised at 65 miles per hour.

Sandy's car got 29 miles per gallon on the trip, four better than it had been getting at the higher speed. Gas was $3.80 per gallon that day. We saved one gallon by slowing down, which covered almost 40 percent of our usual lottery loss—a pretty good deal. The roundtrip took 22 minutes longer than usual. The scenery and music were great and I experienced a marked reduction in stress by staying in the slow lane, so the extra time spent on the journey could be considered a plus.

Of course, multitudes of others already had figured out that slowing down on an interstate trip had benefits. Sure they did. We passed exactly two vehicles—two decrepit old trucks—during the entire journey. The several hundred other drivers taking the same route all whizzed past us. Talking green is one thing, driving green apparently is quite another.