Park your car and curb emmisions |

Park your car and curb emmisions

The sea of cars I drifted along with for five hours last Friday was a torturous reminder of how dependent we all are on gasoline. But the portly fellow on the overpass near Roseville who was picketing with a sign that read “$#@% gas prices!” portrayed an even more regrettable reality ” half the country doesn’t even know there are alternatives out there.

I’m all for taking your public service announcement to a freeway overpass, but placing the blame for today’s transportation woes on the price of gas itself isn’t just a waste of time, it’s downright misdirected. Unless you actually drive for a living, lamenting the price of gasoline really doesn’t deserve much sympathy. Protesting some of the political developments that affect gas prices would be a more constructive use of time, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are many alternatives to paying the high price for gasoline. And here’s the kicker. Less gasoline purchased means less money spent and, better yet, less emissions pumped into our atmosphere, a consideration that all of us should be giving more thought.

Saving money is something we can all relate to but saving the planet is something altogether different when it comes to priorities in life. Ironically, in the long run, saving the planet could have just as much influence on the well being of generations to come as would money in the bank. Global warming has long been a buzzword in environmental rhetoric, and a much disputed one at that. Some call global warming a fabricated environmental issue and others a function of natural variation within the planet’s ecosystem, but hard proof that our climate is changing for the worse does exist. Scarier yet is the reality that some people don’t even know what global warming is.

On behalf of the Greenhouse Network and Clif Bar, I spent an afternoon on the steps of the State Capitol building in Sacramento last week, trying to get citizens to voice their concern about global warming by signing postcards addressed to California Assembly members, asking members to follow through on Governor Schwarzenegger’s June 1 executive order to curb California’s emissions. Until legislation is in place, the executive order is nothing more than lip service. And with an alarming number of citizens out there who don’t even know what global warming is, those who do recognize the problem need to let California Assembly members know. Currently, assemblyman Joe Nation is trying to pass a bill that would require auto manufacturers to list the emissions output of each car on a dealer’s lot.

Global warming is of worldwide concern, but the state of California has more at stake than some countries do ” even continents. If California were a country, it would be ranked 10th in emissions output. And no matter where you live in the Golden State, the effects of global warming will continue to impact your neighborhood unless something is done. Rising temperatures reduce air quality as well as our precious Sierra snowpack, a recreational resource for many Californians and a primary water source for many more. Sixty-five percent of California’s water comes from the Sierra and if greenhouse gasses go unchecked for another 90 years, some models show the snowpack being reduced by 48 percent. Temperatures aside, halfing the water supply will have a detrimental affect to farming and agriculture on a statewide level.

Beyond rallying around state representatives, the surest and swiftest way to combat global warming is to make a concerted effort to reduce your own emissions. Burning fossil fuels and, in particular, burning gasoline when you drive your car, makes up the bulk of emissions put out by Californians. Buying hybrid cars and those with better gas mileage are great options but it doesn’t have to be that complicated or that costly. Simply reducing the number of miles you drive on a daily basis can have a significant impact on your own emissions output, and your budget.

Public transportation, carpooling, walking and, of course, bicycling are easy, cost-effective options for most people ” and 40 percent of Americans already own bikes. Even if your daily commute makes driving a necessity, your car doesn’t have to be used for shorter, around-town travel. Believe it or not, nearly half of all car trips in the U.S. are less than three miles. Somebody with little to no fitness could complete the same trip by bicycle in 30 minutes or less, and in bigger cities, the same person could probably do so in less time than it would take to drive.

Want to save money? Want to save the planet? Want to be healthier and spend more time outdoors? Just park your bike a little closer to your daily routine and you’ll do all that and then some.

Peter Berridge is an accomplished professional mountain bike racer, tour guide and journalist who lives in the Truckee area and provides columns regularly for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers. He can be reached at

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