Why can’t we be more…European
Bashing Europeans — especially the French — for going soft on war in Iraq became a popular US pastime in the immediate post-9/11 era. French fries were renamed "freedom fries." John Kerry, who spent time in France as a youth, was even accused of somehow looking French, a low blow indeed! Now, along comes New York Times columnist Paul Krugman with a startling message in the $4 per gallon of gas era: We should all try to be more European.Writing in today’s paper, Krugman says the folks across the pond have it exactly right when it comes to the new oil-price reality: "If Europe’s example is any guide, here are the two secrets of coping with expensive oil: own fuel-efficient cars, and don’t drive them too much." That approach is possible in Europe, he says, because of a car culture that doesn’t worship monstrous gas-guzzlers and metropolitan and regional planning that welcomes low-rise apartment buildings and makes heavy use of rail transit.
By the time I finished the column, I felt practically continental — and carbon-footprint virtuous — for Krugman describes my transportation profile perfectly. I have a nearly 25-year-old Saab, which gets good mileage, but spends most of the time getting the rest it needs in the driveway of my Boston home, while I take the city’s MBTA subway system downtown to work. It might be the right model for our times, but Krugman quickly reminds me what a complete outlier I am in this country, pointing out that fewer than 5 percent of all Americans commute to work via public transportation.