Monday, July 14, 2008

Europe Shows How to Save Energy

vélo sans mains
Originally uploaded by yeuxrouge

With a surfeit of natural resources and an attitude that often views prodigious consumption as a virtue, the United States has lagged behind Europe for many years in terms of energy efficiency. As oil supplies dwindle and SUVs grow rust in the back corners of car lots, the message is finally getting through that our habits need changing and the kinds of changes needed can be seen in examples from Europe, where transportation, heating, cooling, and people-powered vehicles are dramatically different than stateside.

Writing for the Christian Science Monitor, Jerry Lanson explains the ways in which Energy-addicted U.S. can learn a lot from Europe. Among those ways, easy access to bicycles in the cities makes a sizable difference in traffic:

Throughout the city, residents and guests can grab a bike at one location, compliments of what seems a simple credit-card prompted trigger, and return it to any of dozens of other locations. The first half-hour, the instructions noted, is free. Each evening we watched as the streets filled with young and often fashionable bike riders, as likely pedaling in high heels and dress slacks as in jeans and sandals.

None of these measures, of course, have taken the sting out of gas prices twice as high in much of Europe as what Americans are paying for at the pump today. But perhaps if Americans, who still use more energy per person than any country in the world, took note and took action to follow suit, prices here and there might at least stabilize.

Lanson sums up the issue neatly at the end of this article:

So as we grouse at the president, Congress, the oil companies and just about anyone else paying too little heed to our growing pain, perhaps Americans should remember that conservation can – and should – begin both in our homes and in our towns.

Let's think globally, then act locally. Our European friends have been doing that for a long time.