Photo: Oil continues to gush into the gulf at a rate of
5,000 barrels a day. See more from the Washington Post.
With the nation watching in horror as an offshore oil disaster the U.S. Department of the Interior thought was so unlikely that it didn't even require the drilling company to file a full environmental impact statement threatens to contaminate wildlife sanctuaries, oyster reefs, shrimp beds, and more along the gulf coast, the Green Moms Carnival turns to the topic of transportation.
The United States consumed not quite 3 gallons of oil per person per day in 2007 with about 70% of that fueling transportation. In that same time period, Japan consumed 1.6 gallons per person per day and Great Britain consumed 1.2. Our lifestyle choices, including how we plan our communities have a huge effect on our energy consumption.
When Mac and I lived in Massachusetts for college, we were a two car household. After college, living in Newark, NJ near bus lines, the Path train into the city, and NJ Transit, Mac decided the insurance and maintenance on his car wasn't worth the cost, so we were quickly down to one. Just after we were married in 1998, my car threw a rod (long story involving the water pump, timing belts, and finally the oil pump) and we were thrust into car-free living in New Brunswick.
We quickly learned to do grocery and laundry mat trips with a bike trailer or push cart, but generally found it hard to do other errands in a very urbanized but very car-centric community. There were no bike lanes and shopping was centralized in malls off very busy roads not terribly close to housing. Still, we biked to the transit station every morning and hopped trains and buses to our various destinations.
Moving to Washington, DC the following summer was a revelation: subway trains and buses galore, shopping on public transit lines, and grocery stores within an easy walk from our house!
Eleven years later, we do own a car specifically so Mac can commute twice a week from our home to Towson University north of Baltimore, MD, where he did his graduate assistantship and now teaches as adjunct faculty.
Still, we use human powered transportation an awful lot and our health is so much better for it. I bike to work, we run errands on foot, and we combine foot and public transportation for most other trips.
One of the things I have found incredibly useful is our double stroller (yep, we've only got one kid). I use it for play dates so I can take the kids to the park (walking two toddlers 1/2 mile to a park is a truly ridiculous proposition), but I also use it for errands. Maya sits in one seat and I pile stuff in the other. Yesterday, we used it to buy a wading pool.
While hybrids and electric vehicles offer a lot of promise in reducing our transportation-sector oil use, reconsidering how we plan our communities in a way that gets us out of our cars is going to need to play a big role as well. That's going to take some time, unfortunately, and there may be more gulf-like spills in the interim.
While we wait, use this Google Earth application to superimpose the gulf oil slick over your hometown and don't miss the other Green Mom Carnival posts on the topic of transportation.