It can get depressing reading the sorrowful screeds of the extreme environmentalists… Seems they get a near religious thrill bicycling through blizzards or spending their life savings on a solar electric array or an electric car with no more range than an overweight bicylist’s. But heck, for millenia religious jealots have flagellated and prostrated themselves to get closer to their god or whatever, and I have to admit environmental extremists have the same right. Provided their electric car doesn’t die in the middle of the road on a blind curve on a foggy night!

But us “normal” folks who enjoy a nice ride or drive in the country can save the world too, and without resorting to even “hypermiling”. The environmentalists major concern is with global warming, and that should be our concern too. I mean, it’s nice being able to ride near year round up here along the 45th parallel, but if this drought lasts another year we’re gonna be outa flour and other important foodstuffs. Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases, and in waging the industrial revolution we’ve produced a lot of said greenhouse gases. The scientists tell us that to halt global warming, we need to get CO2 levels down to around 350 PPM, and we’re currently passed that and well on the way to 400 PPM. That means we don’t need to bankrupt ourselves buying solar cells and electric cars… We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not cut them to zero.

And fortunately, the potential for cutting these emissions is huge, especially in North America. Now if you’re reading this in Europe of Japan or just about any industrialized country but the U.S., you’re already with the program. Fact is, Europeans have been living the same civilized lifestyle and have just as many mod cons as us Americans, ‘cept they use less than half as much energy in the process. How? Well, for a start the best selling vehicles in the U.S. are full sized pickups that get 20 MPG on a good day when are the stars and planets are aligned and there’s a good tailwind. In Europe, the best selling vehicles are the VW Golf and Ford Focus and similar, powered by turbodiesels that get 40 MPG or better no matter how you overload and abuse them. Same with housing- almost within sight of one of the largest window factories in the U.S., the builders of an energy efficient house had to import windows from Germany to get the level of thermal efficiency they needed… We can do better.

Now your neighborhood environmental extremist will no doubt be unimpressed when you buy a Focus that gets twice the mileage as an F150 or put some attic insulation in your old house and cut your heating bill and greenhouse gas output in half. And when you ride by and wave on your 60 MPG motorcycle, he’ll shake his head, assuming you’d joined the local biker gang and double latch his door… Despite your HiVis ‘stitch and full face helmet!

But the truth is, we can save the planet while enjoying turbodiesel hot hatches and 750 cc. class sport tourers. And when not in motion (gotta sleep sometime) we can be warm and toasty in well insulated homes and shops. Yup, doesn’t have the theatrics of showing off an electric car, a $5000 bicycle, or a roof full of solar cells… But it’s a lot easier on the budget!