Win the Future? Options are Important

Prices at the pump are at an all-time high, approaching $4 a gallon nationally. And sales of gas are down. Why? People are driving less as the Great Recession still stings so many Americans. Mass transit ridership is on the rise again. And perhaps car pooling is getting popular too?

Global Green did its part to make hybrid cars fun, popular, and sexy to drive by shuttling stars to the Oscars in fuel efficient vehicles starting back in 2003. How can we make carpooling just as sexy and fun?

Well, prices at the pump will probably move behavior more than anything else. American vehicles are among the least efficient in the world. China has set a fuel efficiency standard of 42.5 mpg, whereas the U.S. is only at 35.5. Automakers have a range of options that meet or beat that standard, but how can we "win the future" when the bar is so low? And when automakers drag their feet--if not actively fight--efforts to raise fuel efficiency?

When the bailout of Chrysler and GM happened, executives were shamed out of their private planes. In response, one even drove from Detroit to DC to testify to Congress. Heck, he carpooled! What if Detroit helped Americans realize that carpooling--and bringing along your bike while you’re at it--was good for the economy, our communities, and the environment? And even encouraged people to use mass transit?

Short of that, I’d be excited if we saw more affordable green options from automakers. We need a wider range of entry level cars that get 40 mpg, whatever the technology. But wouldn’t it be great if automakers did something radical, like supporting--via marketing, investments, charity, and lobbying--carpooling, car sharing, and bike sharing programs so everyone can access sustainability options in our urban areas? Then everyone wins.

Matt Petersen