American Automobile Fuel Consumption Debate


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I ran this idea by my family over Christmas dinner and did not get as good a response as I wanted. I do not have any new ideas to report - I do, however, have a couple of ideas on the guidelines of a peer pressure scheme.

We started talking about how much different Cambridge, MA is compared to east central PA - how much different Cambridge, MA is than most of the rest of the country. My family was skeptical that a green light on the gas pump would work in an area known for a distrust of enviros. They thought that there might be a reverse peer pressure - one that prevented you from pushing that button. What if my Limbaugh-listening uncle pulled up - or even drove past - and I was pumping under a green flashing light? He would never let me live it down.

I tried to get the fam focused on ways that we could pressure my uncle. That's when we started developing the guidelines.

- A scheme should be locally run and motivated.

- The money should go to a local environmental group and not to a national group or to the government.

Now that I am writing, I realize those were the only two guidelines we discussed. My family thought there would be significant reluctance to participate in a scheme where the money was leaving the community.

Hope you are all having a merry day.


Happy Christmas Everybody!

I am sure you guys have not seen this.
Gregory Norris who is driving the idea of New Earth is trying to do what Adam and Tom discussed. Peer pressure part is this: Local businesses, including all mom and pop stores will start contributing. Tom Curry could also start to contribute to the fund in the name of say, ExxonMobil. Others could join in. When the 1% limit is reached, that will be Exxon's contribution to the fund for year 1. New Earth will then ask Exxon if they would now contribute 1% of their profits next year, shaming them if they did not.

The idea of community based projects and groups is inherent in the New Earth idea. Personally, I don't think it can work, but it is an interesting idea none the less.
Coming back to Adam's 5 cents a gallon environmental levy, why not just accept that taxing gasoline might be a good idea?


A gas tax is Certainly a good idea. Except, look what happened to the Clinton admin when they tried it -- they got crucified. Now with the Bushies at the helm, I don't see a snowball's chance in hell until 2009.

John Ward

I agree with Tom that the gas pump idea would be received quite differently in different parts of the country. Two other effects that I would be concerned about are:
1. Will people eventually tune a the green light into the background?
2. Is a gas station a fruitful place for the application of peer pressure?
When I fillup, I very rarely run into anyone who I care what they think of me. The lawn sign idea may be a better application as most people have some social relationship with their neighbors although it is often a weak one in modern, car-dependent cities with far-flung social networks.
Possible alternates would be to focus more directly on peer groups. One possibility for energy would be some type of "Friends and Family" where if you get enough people in your group, you may get a rebate of some sort. Let's say for every electric bill dollar, .95 goes to the company and .05 goes to env. causes. With 10 people, it would go to .93 for the bill and .05 for causes.
Another idea to possibly target peer groups more would be to use a bar to get some money. For every beer, maybe have an optional charge of $.25 with the beer being served in a green mug. Guys who would not pay at the gas pump may pay may be more sensitive to peer pressure at the bar if women prefer men who support environmental causes.


Go John! I support the green mug of beer idea. Definitely more peer pressure involved there than at the gas pump. I also agree with John that lawn sign or a mailbox sticker is a good idea. However, I don't know about the $0.02 lost in the friends and family business. Isn't that just Subsidy??

Also, I brought up the issue of gas tax on purpose. In America, anything can be achieved with hardwork and determination, except an increase in gasoline taxes! Anyway, Adam realises that Bush is the man to lead the US until 2008. That makes two of us to have realised that! However, I am telling you that you will a modest increase in gasoline taxes during Bush era. The fact of the matter is that money is badly needed for highway construction and maintainance, and raising the gas tax is the only means to accomplish that. The proposed increase is modest, about 5.4 cents. This is old news, read about that here:


I may be the anomaly but I always feel on display at the gas station. I would definitely feel peer pressure at the station. The thing is - I am not sure which way the pressure would go.

In Pottsville, the main gas stations are at either end of town. The stations at my end of town (the ones that I used to stop at on my way to Pittsburgh or DC) are across the street from the Dunkin Donuts. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have run into people out there on my way out of town. Random people from my past. The thing I worry about is the negative peer pressure. If you don’t market it properly, those people from my past could turn against the green light.

That brings me back to the idea of a locally motivated initiative. One successful local fundraising campaign is the Children’s Miracle Network ( ).(Actually, local is probably not the word – it just seems local which makes it more powerful, I think.) For a small donation, local businesses give people pieces of paper with hot air balloons – like the ones in the upper left of the web page – and the donators write their name on it and the business displays the balloon somewhere prominent. It seems like an effective sort of fund raiser.

TAXES! Anup! Are you crazy?!

Putting a gasoline tax in a transportation bill is genius. It separates the issue from the controversy of environmental stewardship.

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