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July 6th, 2009
08:57 AM ET

Pay more, drive less, save the planet

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/01/16/school.bus.cuts/art.school.bus.cuts.afp.gi.jpg caption="To fight climate change, Washington wants you to take a bus"]

Gabriel Roth
The Washington Post

What is the appropriate response to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who as General Motors prepared to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection declared that he wants to "coerce people out of their cars"? One might be inclined to dismiss these words as overkill - except for recently introduced legislation by some congressional heavy-hitters that would take us down this road.

First there was the "Federal Surface Transportation Policy and Planning Act of 2009," introduced in May by Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation. Next, in June, came the "Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009," introduced by James Oberstar (D., Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Messrs. Rockefeller and Lautenberg aim to "reduce per capita motor vehicle miles traveled on an annual basis." Mr. Oberstar wants to establish a federal "Office of Livability" to ensure that "States and metropolitan areas achieve progress towards national transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals."

What does this mean? Most travel is not for its own sake. So reducing the total miles traveled - whether the length or number of trips - means people would have to reduce the activities they want and need to do. People would be "coerced," in effect, to live in less desirable places or work in less desirable jobs; shop in fewer and closer stores; see their doctor less frequently; visit fewer family members and friends.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Environmental issues
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. RLWellman

    We have to drive pop cans and drive less while Nancy Pelosi flies a 200 passenger jet back and forth from Washington to California. I'm impressed every time she talks about the "carbon footprint" we are leaving.

    We the citizens are supposed to use less, while the whole Government keeps right on using and spending like there is no bottom to the money well. They are supposed to be adding 78,000 people to their roles. Will these all be ACORN people?

    July 7, 2009 at 1:53 am |
  2. Annie Kate

    Those who think climate change is just a figment of someone's tortured imagination needs to look through all the thousands and thousands of scientific data and research before they decide to opt for their so-called freedom and privileges. You can be as free as you want for as long as you want but climate change is now and will only get worse and in the end you won't have to worry about driving or working because we will have finished making our planet uninhabitable – no fresh water, no food crops, everyone in poverty fighting over the last few resources there are. Oil is an expensive commodity today; tomorrow it will be water.

    July 6, 2009 at 9:41 pm |
  3. Tim Gibson

    The reality of a changing environment and the impact we as individuals and as nations have upon it are unclear.

    Perhaps a better cap and trade system would be one placed on congress and all the elected officials who have taken our tax dollars and traded it away for an economic crisis that has yet been brought to market.

    Our planet will change, regardless of how many times we travel over the mountains and through the woods to grandmothers house. The question is, how and when will we come to the conclusion that we must prepare for it on a scale of survival.

    July 6, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  4. CB13

    Soon we will be paying for air to breathe. Then ultimatley the will tell us how much air we 'should' consume in a day. This country is so screwed up!

    July 6, 2009 at 3:33 pm |
  5. CB13

    Soon we will be paying air to breathe. Then ultimatley the will tell us how much air we 'should' consume in a day. This country is so screwed up!

    July 6, 2009 at 3:32 pm |
  6. JIM FALLBROOK CA

    The government wants us to pay more, drive less so Al Gore can profit from this fabricated claim of global warming and fly around the country in his private jet. . Gore is saying "don't do as I do, do as I say". First of all it will be practically impossible to provide convenient and reasonable transportation for the majority If we did make this sacrifice, it wouldn't change anything. If scientist. Gore and Obama want to so called save the planet, they should convince China and India to stop using fossil fuels which is polluting the air much more than we are in the US. Once I see China and India conforming, then I will change my driving habits. Bottom line is the pro global warming groups just want to make huge profits from their exaggerated claims and make the American people suffer.

    July 6, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  7. Mari

    Well........ the truth about climate change is that the scientists do not know how bad things really are, since we have never lived through this before. All they know is that the Earth is warming.

    What's sad, is the number of people who believe the naysayers and will not do their own thinking or research!

    Watch the documentary "Planet Earth" and then worry. There will be sacrifices for us, all to make, the sooner we stop the denial, the better it will be for us ......... and the only planet we can live on,........ Earth!

    July 6, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  8. Enough

    Yeah, I'll drive a crummy Prius so Al Gore can fly around on his private jet. What is the rest of the world doing to help global warming? We are just a small portion of this planet and Democrats will have you beleive that we can save it with the Cap and Tax plan shoved down our throats.

    July 6, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  9. Cindy

    This is just ridiculous! You can't make people drive less. What are we supposed to do lay out of work because the government doesn't want us driving? Gas is so high now a days most people aren't driving as much anyway. Besides that..we do live in a free country and it is NOT up to our elected officials how much we do or don't drive. It seems they want to control every little aspect of our lives now. HELLO..we live in a Democracy here!

    Cindy..Ga.

    July 6, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  10. Enough

    More of this global warming fairy tale that will cost us taxpayers billions and billions of dollars with the cap and tax plan passed by the Democrats, but yet Al Gore and company still fly around on private jets which are way more polluting than our little cars. What's China doing to help our planet?? Yup the folks who fell for this crap being shoved down our throats are the ones still waiting for Santa Claus and the Easter bunny to show up!!

    July 6, 2009 at 1:02 pm |