Add me to the list of people jumping up and down and clicking my heels together that gas prices are lower. Let’s be honest – it’s a budget item for every car owner.  Lower gas prices mean more money in our pockets to save or spend in other ways that can be more fun than filling your car up with gas. According to AAA the average price in Tucson, Arizona is $1.90, down 50% since last year.  Amazing, right?  I still remember when gas was $4.00/gallon in 2008 and the gas shortage back in 1974 when I would get up at 4:00 a.m. to get in line at the gas station (and did we ever figure out if there even WAS a shortage?)  Now there’s plenty of gas and it costs a lot less. Make sense to anyone?

green-gas-pump-earthHere’s what concerns me: how quickly many people seem to forget. According to the research I have done and based on talking with several car dealers, people are buying up “the big trucks” and SUVs like crazy again and fuel efficient car sales are down.  Really?  Were people only buying more fuel efficient cars because of higher gas prices?  Yikes!  And for those of us who are true believers in alternative transportation and things like carpooling, does cheaper gas mean more driving and less biking, taking the bus, riding subways or street cars?   What kind of person am I that I want to shout from the rooftops “Hello – more driving leads to more pollution and more congestion. And none of us want that now do we?”  And not making headlines in today’s news, the US EPA recently announced a new proposal that would lower the ozone standard from 75 parts per billion to 65 to 70 ppb. Guess they have their eye on the ball that this kind of standard is more protective of human health. Do you know what a lower standard might mean in your community?  I know enough to be dangerous and am aware that a lower standard could put Tucson in nonattainment for ozone. Pima County has worked so hard and very successfully to achieve the standards set by the EPA and driving the big gas burners is ULTIMATELY not in anyone’s best interest.  (Because we all breathe the same air?)

Since motor vehicles are the leading source of pollution in Pima County nonattainment could mean harsher regulations for everyone.  Anyone you know in favor of harsher regulations?Back to my eco AND business friendly mindset, might something like nonattainment have an impact on economic growth by restricting business expansion? Can’t we all just think and get behind cleaner air for everyone? Another yikes!

Please let’s all continue to be diligent about using alternative transportation when possible and driving less to keep emissions down and air quality up. The lower gas prices are tempting, but try to ride your bike or consider walking for those shorter trips. Another fun and fuel-efficient thought? Carpool with friends whenever possible when you are going out to dinner and attending an event. It really IS more fun too!  Live in Tucson? Ride the streetcar for your trips to campus or for a fun way to visit downtown and actually enjoy the ride.

Remember Margaret Meade’s quote about never doubting that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world? That’s true. And if you don’t believe me, check out what one small but mighty group of people at Pima Association of Governments is doing through its Sun Rideshare program. They even give out rewards for sharing your ride!

Fuel for thought indeed.