The BBC today reported that Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, former chairman of Shell Oil, says that the EU should mandate that all cars sold achieve at least a 35 mpg rating. While unfortunately it’s realization is a remote possibility, I think it’s fantastic to hear an industrialist propose something sustainable.
The two major adversaries to such a regulation are car companies and the public. This is true both in the EU and the US. Politicians don’t want to piss off the factory workers that build gas-guzzlers, nor the constituents that drive them. And let’s face it: as a Western culture we are addicted to big and fast. We want that spine-tingling pedaltothemedal zoom that you just can’t get in a Prius. And the movies never show Johnny getting Susie’s shirt off in the back of a Civic hybrid. It’s a giant van spewing the same amount of smoke outside that is *cough* “occurring naturally” inside.
Changing our attitudes about cars is tough. We’re romantically involved with the idea of limitless boundaries of speed, size, and distance. It’s hard to give those up in the name of a globally-conscious ideal that often just doesn’t have the same sex appeal. But starting to equate big=bad and efficient=sexy is the way to eventually make not only an mpg regulation a reality, but a culture centered on sustainability. Let that tingle your spine. With the public on their side, politicians would willingly tell the auto companies to step it up.
While breaking a cultural addiction sounds truly daunting (and near impossible) there are some easy ways to start changing both your mindset and those around you.
- Next time you see a hybrid or high-efficiency vehicle, (even if it’s old or small or puke yellow) compliment it. To the owner or to your friend; demonstrate that it’s a quality you appreciate in the world around you.
- Next time you see a jaw-dropping, souped up racer, keep your mouth closed. Even if it’s owner is begging for attention. There’s no need to be whiny or condescending and ask about the horrible gas mileage it gets, your silence will be enough to send the message.
- When deciding which car to take (often an issue in my group of friends) always suggest the one with the highest mpg. Feel free to disclose your reasoning if asked, but just saying “oh I like Rachel’s car..” will make Rachel feel good and cause your other friends to think of her car in a positive light. Mind you, if you’re always suggesting Rachel’s car it’s a good idea to help with the gas money. It shouldn’t be much.
I try to keep this mindset when I’m at home. My mother drives a Prius, my father a Yukon, and there’s about a 30 mpg difference between them. If I have to borrow a car, my first choice is always the Prius. When we make long trips to visit family I try to suggest it as well, although it doesn’t always work. But me nagging about the “behemoth” is just going to make Dad tune me out.
The basic idea is to praise the sustainable while keeping mum about the less-so. Keeping a positive tone will do more than constantly worrying others about pollution. And while I would never encourage a girl to go to second base just because it’s a hybrid, maybe a second date is an option? After all, with the savings in gas money he can buy you dessert.
How do you support high-efficiency vehicles?