Saturday, April 3, 2010

Global Green Energy: Drilling while mandating energy efficiency autos

There were two distinct news items this week. One was the opening up of offshore drilling by the Obama administration. The other was announcement of new mileage rules of cars and autos. These two moves are expected to help their bit towards energy security in the US, and to some extent help Americans lead the debate on global warming and greenhouse gases.

While a step in the right direction, one thinks: is it too little too late?

The target is to raise the average mileage of new cars to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. This converts to about 14.88 Kilometers per liter (KMPL). Translate this to another context, the ubiquitous motorcycles and scooters in Asia, used for commuting by masses average anywhere from 60 - 100 KMPL

American cities and lifestyle is designed on having the mobility that automobiles provide, more than most other countries in the world. During the past decade, I have lived and worked in India, UK, Canada, Europe (Switzerland) and traveled extensively to most metros in the US. In cities around the world, I have been able to manage to commute comfortably in busses, trams, metros, trains and other modes of public transit. Not so in most metros in the US (with possibly the exception of New York City). Much against my will, I have to rent cars and add my bit to emission greenhouse gas emission in the US. While, like most other Americans, I love the flexibility that an auto can provide, driving for commuting to work is generally a chore than a pleasure.

Europeans and Asians live in denser urban areas, closer to city hubs, relying heavily on public transit, which are inherently ‘greener.’ And it is not even fashionably been but a very practical way of life, designed by town/city planners. Most Americans don’t have this choice even if they wanted to.