Author: Rachel Cotton '03
We're the people who ticketed everyone's Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) last year. We also fixed up a bunch of bikes, hoping that they would be taken for rides, loved and left in appropriate locations after use. With the introduction of "the yellow fleet," our plan was to memorialize the status of bicycles on campus. As an organization, our main focus lies in reprioritizing transportation standards within the local community.
What you may not know about Environmental Quality (EQ) is that serious issues do indeed lurk behind our seemingly "sensationalistic" agenda.
In a Nov. 24 opinions piece for The New York Times, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pleas the case for an increase in American fuel economy standards. In doing so, he raises several key points relating fuel efficiency, oil conservation and national security. One of Kennedy's most compelling arguments is based on a one mile per gallon increase in auto fuel efficiency yielding more oil than is contained in two Arctic National Wildlife Refuges. In extending this logic, he notes that a 2.7 mile per gallon increase would eliminate the United States' need to import any oil from the Middle East .
Kennedy's article offers an easy and practical solution to some of the most pressing issues on the national agenda. Why isn't Detroit moving rapidly to incorporate increases in fuel economy, then? It is because auto manufacturers neither see a demand from the American public nor a requirement from the American government to modify the overall efficiency of their products.
Since the most frequently purchased American automobile — SUVs — are also the most notoriously fuel inefficient, data appears to indicate that most Americans do not value fuel economy over image. The lure of driving a rugged yet stylish recreational vehicle entices many. By repeatedly filling up America's most popular vehicles with gas without a complaint, the public is essentially granting permission to Detroit, Congress and the president to remain stagnant on the issue of fuel economy. The situation is exacerbated by the power and money of auto and oil lobbies who operate in their own self interest.
In attending a meeting of The Middlebury Multifaith Climate Change Coalition last week, I was reminded of the importance of community organizing. The group discussed ideas for exclusive "fuel efficient vehicle only" parking spots in town and a "campaign to save winter in Vermont." The overall consensus of the meeting was that in order to protect the future of the planet what needs to change is the American notion of what makes "a good car."
In developing campaigns such as the yellow bikes and the anti-SUV, EQ is trying to raise the consciousness of the Middlebury community. In fostering an environment of education, through modes of action and discourse, our goal is to suggest wise, informed decisions.
Most of us will purchase an automobile at some point in our lives. In doing so, it is our responsibility to future generations, the earth and ourselves to choose the most efficient options. We should decrease demand for "gas guzzlers" by increasing our demand for fuel-efficient vehicles. In making wise decisions, we need to establish fuel-efficient, hybrid and hydrogen powered vehicles, along with bicycles, carpools and footsteps as the preferred methods of American transportation.
"Yellow Fleet" Saves Cash and Gas
Author: Rachel Cotton '03