How quickly they forget. To be fair, what I should say is how quickly we forget. Last summer, after watching the price of gas hit $4 a gallon with no ceiling in sight, I wrote in this space that I had finally developed a “green’’ sensibility. Henceforth, I would curtail my more frivolous driving, notably my traditional Sunday morning trek to an out-of-town smoked-fish market. The local (and somewhat inferior) market would have to suffice. I felt noble, patriotic even. Then, last Sunday, after happily filling up my car with $2.59-a-gallon gas, I slipped; almost unconsciously, I found myself turning onto the parkway and heading you-know-where.
Other than the price of gas, of course, none of the reasons for driving less have gone away. Our voracious appetite for oil continues to fill the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, foul the air, and undermine national security by enriching oil-producing foreign despots. In short, we remain in desperate need of a national energy policy that shifts us from fossil fuels to greener alternatives. A few months ago, there seemed to be political momentum to embark on this enormously difficult and expensive task. It started from the ground up as Americans stunned by spiking gas prices began driving less, stopped buying gas-guzzlers, and turned to mass transit in record numbers. Cynics said it wouldn’t last, and they may be proved right. Motor Trend magazine is reporting that sales of SUVs and trucks have started to rebound, while car-pooling and mass transit use is slipping. Alternative-energy advocates say they fear that without high energy bills, Americans will simply lose interest in reform. How shortsighted and self-indulgent do they think we are?