While we applaud President George Bush’s short-term warnings to decrease household fuel use by driving less, it’s clear this country’s long-term plans are all about expansion, not adaptation or conservation: increase supply, grow oil refining and, by all means, let’s don’t impose higher mileage standards on automakers. The administration’s attitude toward decreasing American energy consumption is downright hostile. “Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it cannot be the basis of a sound energy policy,” Vice President Dick Cheney has said. At one point during the Bush administration, a presidential mouthpiece even called our lofty energy use “an American way of life.”
Yeah, um, this won’t do. And we suspect the American electorate and even a majority-Republican Congress will ultimately give the collective finger to such a needlessly stubborn posture, which only reinforces negative attitudes about the U.S. globally. Perhaps if any good comes out of the catastrophic hurricanes this tropical storm season has produced, it will be making us all—if not the administration—more informed and cognizant about how much we use and how we can do better. For now, we can carpool, recycle, act out other “personal virtues.” Meanwhile, a few hopeful suggestions for bigger, broader change:
Buy hybrid fleets. Perhaps the Metro Police Department needs Crown Victorias or similar guzzlers for the sake of performance, but there’s no reason why the city and state shouldn’t choose low-emission hybrid vehicles for other fleet purchases—and, perhaps eventually, for law enforcement too. A 2004 Crown Victoria gets about 13 miles to the gallon in the city compared with about 60 miles per gallon for a Toyota Prius. Nashville and the state of Tennessee could choose to be innovators in this area. Is there really any reason why officials for the Commerce and Insurance Department need to be driving big, expensive, gas-guzzling sedans at all—and on our dime? Most employers don’t provide vehicles for their workers, so why does the state? And if it’s going to, it should do it smarter and more efficiently. Same goes for Metro. Meter readers don’t need to go 0 to 60 in five seconds. Plus, the more government demand, the more incentive there will be for automakers to produce these vehicles. When and if we ever nail this one, we could also consider eco-friendly bus fleets.
Institute a more reasonable school calendar. Why in God’s name do we send Nashville kids back to school in the sweltering August heat and let them out in freaking May? Most states don’t send them back until after Labor Day, and they keep them until sometime in June. That makes a lot more sense. Gas prices tend to fall after summer’s end, which would be good news for the school system’s fuel budget. And, by the way, so do temperatures. Yet another opportunity to save energy costs, as keeping kids cool in August is expensive as hell. City officials, if some good PR is an incentive, consider that you’d probably be heroes among Metro’s public school parents, who carp every year about our counterintuitive school calendar.
NES could hold a competition. Assuming the city’s electric company can track electrical use by area, neighborhoods or council districts could compete to see who can decrease energy consumption most in a given time period. It could even sell sponsorships to hybrid automakers to pay for the publicity and organization.
Telecommute. Here’s another opportunity for government to innovate. Is there really any reason why data entry workers, just for example, need to physically commute to a government building?
Create neighborhood farms. With unused Metro property, the city could create neighborhood farms and allow people to grow cooperative crops. Instead of driving to Kroger to pick up tomatoes that were trucked in from Texas or Florida, people could wander over to their neighborhood garden and pick a few crops for dinner. Much of the produce we buy in stores is from many states away and, more often than not, isn’t organically grown. This would reduce fuel consumption, improve neighborhoods and promote healthier lifestyles at the same time. If we wanted to get really clever, we could allow that public land to host solar panels or windmills to produce energy. Of course, we’d need a conservation czar. (Righteous lefties, notice this rare meeting of the minds between you and the Scene editorial space.)
Just as we’d ceased wondering how WSMV general manager Elden Hale manages to walk upright, what with the missing backbone that led him to cave to irrational ravings and pull The Book of Daniel in Nashville, NBC up and announced Tuesday that it was canning the controversial drama altogether, citing a ratings disaster.
Imagine the Nashville Symphony without its string section, the Titans without their offensive line, the city’s meat-and-threes without the meat. The visual arts landscape of Nashville is facing a parallel prospect.
There are 70,000 students in our public schools, and most of us have been talking about director Pedro Garcia’s poor bedside manner or his elected board’s proclivity for divisiveness and concern with style over substance.