Drivers Beware of Europe

Posted on June 28, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Several European countries are in the process of making driving miserable. Though the joy of driving on the autobahn may stay the same, the feeling in your stomach when filling up at the pump may make you sick. Nations have levied a tax on gasoline to account for environmental and health problems associated with the greenhouse gases that are emitted from automobiles. Along with being expensive, large European cites are closing scores of streets to car traffic. Germany has instituted “environmental zones” in which only cars with low carbon emissions are allowed to enter. Cites have continued to welcome new development but have allowed extremely low amounts of parking. An extreme example is the European Environmental Agency, which has 150 spaces for bicycles, and one parking spot. One handicapped parking spot. The Europeans, who in recent history have always been more environmentally conscious than Americans, have upped the ante.

This may sound severe, but it makes sense. Many European countries realized that they could never achieve the standards set forth by the Kyoto protocols without curbing driving. Driving is polluting, and it sometimes may take more than just a monetary incentive to get people out of cars. However, they are not leaving would-be drivers on the curb, with miles to go to their desired location. Public transportation is much more efficient in Europe. Cities have started bike sharing programs (with varied success), and trams, buses and trains have become much more popular.

Carless households have increased 5 percent in the last decade, and statistics show that drivers use their cars less, reducing carbon emissions. It is hard to imagine an America with less cars, but it may not be such a bad place. Cities need to start getting serious about climate change, because even though not every city will be affected as much by consequences such as natural disaster, the urban heat islands created by global warming could make cities much less pleasant to live in. This, and of course pollution may make similar policies on car use in America desirable. Some statistics even show that America may have reached its peak car usage. Whatever the reason is, the Europeans are right on this one. The U.S.’s need to decrease it’s reliance on fossil fuels, and though this is continuation of a theme that has riddled political debates for decades, this is a surefire way of doing just that.

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