Much of what America has accomplished in the last two centuries is indebted to that understanding--whether we’re talking about the cost of liberty, or the impetus for our celebrated Yankee thrift. Alas, as great a nation as we remain today, we’re clearly losing sight of Paine’s premise.
|In the face of better alternatives, the fossil fuel-|
powered automobile is overdue for oblivion.
Under the relentless growth of automobile ownership, America’s infrastructure geared itself almost exclusively to internal-combustion vehicles. Slowly but inexorably, we abandoned public transportation in favor of building freeways to ever more distant suburbs. In response, businesses fled dense city centers for suburban sites where they could provide “cheap” parking. Meanwhile, American homes sprouted two, then three or even four garages, which became the dominant architectural emblem of postwar housing.
|An unintended consequence of cheap petroleum.|
Yet our world is now forever different from the one that came before--due in no small part to American ingenuity. Brought closer by the miracle of global connectivity, and simultaneously haunted by the specter of diminishing resources, it’s now a place in which all peoples feel entitled to participate. We can no longer ignore that what comes cheaply to us often exacts a heavy price from someone else.
|The Chevrolet Volt: Better way too late |
While low oil prices may seem like a blessing, in the long run they serve only to reinforce our addiction to a dead-end fuel source. Perhaps, as Paine foresaw over two hundred years ago, the blessings we enjoy aren’t yet quite dear enough.