Wasteful and ignorant: It’s the American way! | AspenTimes.com
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Wasteful and ignorant: It’s the American way!

Gary Hubbell

It was the end of a long, dusty day of guiding people on horseback rides, and we were enjoying a cold beer on the porch of my office. A new Audi pulled up to the restaurant next door to our office, and a man stepped out. He left the car running. The family remained in the car while the cooling system howled.We watched silently. I wondered why he left the car running. It was a pleasant 74 degrees, with a nice breeze coming in from the river. The man was in the restaurant three or four minutes, then came back out with a few bottles of water. It took him several minutes to distribute the bottles of water to the family inside, who never moved a muscle. The fan on the Audi was at a screaming pitch, like it was about to blow up.This was a very typical scenario, except that an Audi is a relatively fuel-efficient car. Most of the time it’s a Yukon, a Hummer, or better yet, a diesel pickup. They all leave them running. Not only do I hate the noise and the stink from the exhaust, I wonder why people are so casual about burning fuel. We’re running out of it, you know.Did you read that last sentence? We’re running out of oil. With attacks on the Iraqi oil distribution system and worries about Russia’s ability to deliver its product, crude oil prices set new records this week at over $45 a barrel.So why don’t we care?I really, truly don’t understand our ignorance and apathy about our energy situation. We’ve chosen to embroil ourselves in a festering Middle Eastern conflict which is sending dozens of body bags home each month. And don’t pretend that oil has nothing to do with it.Most experts agree that our oil supplies are on the downward side of supply, and any oil man will tell you that all the easy oil has been found. Now we’re literally going to the ends of the earth to find the stuff, and we’re willing to sacrifice our most precious natural beauty for a few days’ supply.We’re so stinking spoiled that we can’t stand to shut off our cars for a few minutes while we go inside a convenience store, for fear it will get hot inside. No one drives with the windows down anymore – it only costs two or three miles a gallon for air conditioning. We can’t stand to spend our own energy to go anywhere – our recreation revolves around burning fossil fuel. We buy ATVs, snowmobiles, wave-runners, dirt bikes, motorboats, and of course we can’t forget about those cool, gas-sucking Harleys. Motor homes have become so gargantuan that they’re bigger than many city buses, and four miles per gallon is common. Of course, when you park them, you’ve got to run the gas generator for electrical power. Tent camping, with campfires and lanterns and so on, is for the underprivileged.We’ve let real estate developers drive the political process by contributing gobs of money to political campaigns, thereby indebting the politicians to their greed. We tax ourselves to build highways to subsidize housing developments where no one can buy a gallon of milk without driving to get it. Trophy-home owners spend more on heating and cooling their mansions than three average homeowners spend each month on their mortgages.Sales of SUVs are brisk, despite clear evidence that they’re more prone to roll-over crashes and despite the fact that most people never take them off the road. I read a news article about a woman in suburban Atlanta who drove a Hummer H2 because, she said, “If I’m in a crash, I’ll win.” Sheesh. How do you argue with this kind of logic? The government actually gives companies a large tax write-off when they buy SUVs and light trucks, which are typically used as personal vehicles. They’re still exempted from the automakers’ fleet fuel efficiency standards, which have plummeted in the last few years. When asked about this appalling scenario, George W. Bush defended it by saying, “It’s the American way.” Oh. OK. That explains it.I predict that gas will go to an average price of over $3 a gallon within the next year, and chances are that the price won’t come down. We will have to start thinking about our future and questions such as whether or not it’s worth burning diesel fuel to haul bottled water to Aspen from Fiji or France. We’ll have to examine whether one person can drive a 90-mile round-trip commute in a 3/4-ton pickup. I hope it hurts when people think about gassing up a truck to haul four ATVs to the mountains for a day’s ride. I hope motor-home sales go in the toilet, along with ATV, motorcycle, and snowmobile sales.I’d like to see people sweat again because air conditioning costs too much.I want to see everyone recycling plastic because it’s so valuable.I want to see hybrid cars and bio-diesel fuels as commonplace, rather than novelties. I want to see people get off their fat asses and walk somewhere instead of driving. I want people to treat oil as if it’s actually precious, which it is. Ask anybody who’s just gotten back from Iraq.Gary Hubbell lives in Marble, where he and his wife, Doris, operate OutWest Guides. They offer summer horseback rides, fly-fishing trips and autumn big-game hunts.


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