Fuel for thought

Posted 11.26.05

As we head into winter, everyone is concerned about the rising cost of fuel. Whether to heat our homes, run our businesses, or power our vehicles, fossil fuels are vital to our existence. Higher fuel costs also inflate the price of everything we buy.

Conservation ideas abound, some of them lacking careful thought. Georgia's decree to shut schools for two days last month in the wake of the hurricanes may have saved fuel for buildings and buses, but it sent parents into a frenzy to arrange for daycare.

Governments can urge the public to conserve, but clearly the mandate and example has to come from the top. Reducing excess lighting and air-conditioning in government offices would be a start, especially for the example it sets when we all see these huge buildings with every window lit well past office hours.

But there are other measures governments could take, some of which may be unpopular. The easiest would be to institute what has come to be called "daylight savings time" all year round.

Why do we still go through this archaic exercise of changing our clocks once a year?

In our climate, either the children are going to have to go to school in the dark in the morning or the afternoon. When will they be most safe to do that? It seems obvious to me that both drivers and pedestrians are more alert in the morning.

Allowing more daylight hours for children to play outside is a great benefit of making "summer time" permanent, and it would finally mean that tiny trick or treaters could enjoy Hallowe'en before it gets too dark or too cold.

Environmentalists would like to ban SUVs. But some drivers need that kind of vehicle because of their business or where they live. Instead, I'd like to see tax incentives on the federal level for those who produce proof of ownership of a gas-saving vehicle.

That kind of tax break might also make it easier for seniors who find it difficult to take public transportation to continue to drive a small car in the city.

Rebates for installing energy-conserving appliances, solar panels, or anything else that reduces fuel consumption seem an easy and obvious way for the government to encourage conservation.

Considering the pressure on working parents to pay for daycare and juggle increasingly heavy schedules, it might be worthwhile to consider changing school schedules (over-riding provincial autonomy over education) so that schools not only run year-round, but are closed for the coldest month of the winter, with government departments and agencies, businesses and stores agreeing to operate on reduced hours/days during that month.

How much would it hurt the economy to have four national holidays on Fridays in February? Canada already lags behind several other industrialized nations in the number of national holidays we enjoy.

Clearly, we need to start thinking more creatively. We're running out of fossil fuel, its skyrocketing cost is having a significant impact on businesses and individuals, and just turning out some lights isn't going to do the job.

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing, Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity, and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2005 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/11.05