February 3, 2011

Automobile Dependence and the Limits of the Electric Car

Sometimes an argument is taut enough to (momentarily) suffocate any counters. A defense of gay marriage recently accomplished this feat. Below please find its transportation-savvy counterpart.

[He] may well be right that electric cars are the future of the automobile, the ultimate problem isn’t cars themselves—it’s the consequences of a car-centric culture.

Those consequences include, but aren’t limited to: Sprawling development patterns (which are massively energy-inefficient, destroy farmland and rural lifestyles, contribute to the concentration of the food system, and require massive amounts of infrastructure—electrical, sewer, and roadway—to exist), impervious surfaces that increase roadway runoff into streams and soil, car crashes (which kill 40,000 people a year and create a huge cost to public health institutions) the consequences of sedentary, car-based lifestyles (obesity, shorter life spans), and the weakening of ties to friends, family, and community, to name a few.

Publicola author Erica Burnett is responding to the argument that bike and pedestrian street improvements are wasteful and unnecessary because in the future, the climate problem will be solved by electric cars. The electric car meme is tempting, but it only scratches the surface of the lifestyle enabled by the automobile. And while e. cars are certainly a net improvement, climate-wise and oil-dependency-wise, reducing automobile dependence is just as important as reducing fossil fuel dependence.

1 comment:

  1. Here's an interesting (and, I think, better argued) take: http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/iroberts1/English