energy independence

I’m still amazed by the bicycle. It is a miracle of human ingenuity and design. In its ubiquitousness the bicycle is easy to take for granted. But is there a more perfect invention? If there is, I can’t think of one. When idle, it humbly stands by, waiting only for the application of human energy to spring to life. As I was riding my bike to work this crisp morning and the pickup trucks and SUVs with the American flag decals were blowing past me, I smiled to myself and felt secretly superior. It’s amazing how your perspective changes when you’re on a bike. When I’m driving my car, I feel relaxed and safe. The world floats before me as I glide down the road in my cocoon of steel and glass. Nothing can touch me. But when I’m on a bike, all motorists become my enemy. I sometimes get the feeling that they are actually trying to drive as close to me as possible, just to give me a scare. In this way, riding a bike while others around you are driving seems like an almost rebellious act. During my commute this morning I was thinking about this notion of energy independence. It’s a phrase that gets tossed around quite a bit these days, especially due to the current crisis we’re in. As Americans, it seems that most of us equate freedom with the ability to do whatever we want. More specifically, to drive whatever we want. We have come to expect cheap gas as a God-given right. Somehow the ability to waste things (money, gas, food, energy, etc.) is the luxury we have of living in a wealthy country. But the fact that the fuel crisis has made its way to places like Costco, where they are limiting the amount of rice you can buy, should show us that we’ve been on the wrong track for quite some time. I’d like to abolish the notion that patriotism equals gluttony. I know energy independence to some means drilling for more oil in places like ANWR so that we can power our ever-increasing armada of heavy, lumbering gas-guzzlers. Criticizing SUVs is old hat and so I won’t get into that here. But I wonder if we’ve turned a corner in our thinking about energy independence. To conservatives, a country full of solar panels, wind farms, and geothermal plants, with armies of tree-hugging, bike-riding hippies cruisng around and using their goddamn hand signals might seem like some kind of Ralph Nadar-inspired Hell. But isn’t true energy independence the most patriotic, conservative position of all? So declare your energy independence! Leave your car at home and bike to your destination. You’ll feel very patriotic. Flag lapel pins optional.

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