One way to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil is to change anachronistic behavioral patterns that no longer make sense in today’s dynamic world.
Many on the left advocate reducing personal energy consumption as one way to achieve this goal. In other words, we can help break our oil addiction by lowering our standard of living.
Well, there is one way to reduce our fuel consumption by improving our standard of living.
I call it the Telecommuters Energy Security Limitation Act (TESLA).
This piece of legislation would require knowledge workers to telecommute 2 days a week. By leveraging a series of innovations that include cloud computing, faster processing speeds, and ever-increasing storage capacity, Americans can spend fewer mind-numbing hours on the road, save over 320 million barrels of oil a year, and use those additional hours for increased productivity.
The end result would be happy workers, more productive employees, and lower oil consumption.
Here is how it would work. The approximately 40 million workers that Richard Florida classifies as the “creative class” would be required by law to telecommute two days a week. According to the Census Bureau about 76% of workers drive alone to work each day. Assuming this number is similar for the creative class, a little over 30 million Americans would be eligible for this program.
Assuming that their daily commute accounts for 80% of the miles U.S. knowledge workers travel each year, and that they will now telecommute 2 days a week, the program could save each of them 4,800 miles per year. At an average fuel efficiency of 22.6 miles per gallon, this translates into an annual savings of 6.5 billion gallons of gasoline in aggregate each year.
The program would save about 880k barrels of oil per day, or over 16% of 2012 U.S. forecasted crude oil production.
It seems like a great idea to me.
U.S. Knowledge Workers: Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class
Percentage of U.S. Workers That Drive to Work: U.S. Census Bureau
Average Annual Mileage: U.S. Federal Highway Administration
Average Mileage for U.S. Passenger Vehicles: U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics
U.S. Annual Gasoline Consumption: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Barrels of Oil per Gallon of Gasoline: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Forecasted 2012 U.S. Crude Oil Production: U.S. Energy Information Administration
My personal favorite is to cut the work week to 4 days. 4 hours of reduction in work hours and the other 4 hours spread over the remaining 4 days.
I like it too. If I could work 4 -18 hour days to get 3 days off, I would do it in a heartbeat.
It makes sense for governments to tighten labor supply to the market by cutting work week. This puts upward pressure on wages and reduces unemployment at the same time. This is a correct alternative to trade unions and their strikes.
Maybe. I am guessing that companies would still get the same amount, if no more, productivity out of their workers by doing this.
Such a policy puts upward pressure on everybody’s wages instead of usurping workplaces for trade union members. After all trade unions are the OPEC of labor. They should be seeking to cut supply quotas for everybody instead of monopolizing access to the market for a few lucky ones.
Yeah, unions have not exactly been very effective at creating jobs. In fact, they have pretty much done the opposite.
“Many on the left advocate reducing personal energy consumption as one way to achieve this goal. In other words, we can help break our oil addiction by lowering our standard of living.”
The first part is probably true but I don’t think the second part is a fair interpretation. You assume the left wants to lower energy consumption would by lowering our standard of living, but many on the left have embraced technological innovation as a way to improve efficiency and lower energy consumption. Telecommuting gets more and more common and accepted each year, and it’s been enabled by technologies like Citrix that allow people to access their work computers from home.
Where you’re more likely to see a left/right divide is on how to achieve the reduction in energy consumption. The left favors mandatory, efficiency-forcing initiatives like appliance performance standards. The right tends to favor voluntary business initiatives to improve efficiency.
Notice, I said, “many” not “all” or “most.”
I agree that some on the left favor technological innovation as well.
When I say lower standard of living, I am talking about folks who clog up the highways in places like San Francisco and Portland like Critical Mass in order to make a political point.
That said, I agree that the left is more likely, in general, to favor mandatory regulation, while the right tends to favor voluntary business initiatives to improve efficiency.
Not to go all libertarian-er-than-thou, but the idea of the government requiring certain folks to work from home x days per week kinda sets my teeth on edge. It strikes me as government overreach to direct people’s whereabouts like that. And the go-to gov’t move to encourage something is tax credits, but how do you do that in this context? Maybe by increasing deductions for certain tech investments, like for wiring & certain software? Even that sounds like it could be a really inefficient intervention (Florida’s new law requiring everyone to get drug tested by the governor’s wife’s company springs to mind), tho I could be wrong. Certainly, other than submitting an affidavit, it’d be darn hard to establish where someone worked.
Of course I agree with you that a world with more telecommuting is a happier world for workers & imports & security. It seems to me that the proper role for gov’t to effectuate that might be through simple awareness campaigns– like, one day per session Congressmen work from home, or Pres. Obama & Speaker Boehner play 9 holes in the morning then work remotely, that sort of thing. There’s a powerful inertia here that a simple campaign like that might help change, w/o the proper scope & ability-to-enforce concerns that I mentioned above. The media would eat up photo ops like that and “catapult the propaganda.”
SPH wrote: “When I say [folks on the left who advocate a] lower standard of living, I am talking about folks who clog up the highways in places like San Francisco and Portland like Critical Mass in order to make a political point.”
First off, I’m not sure they’re advocating a lower standard of living– I think they’d argue that they’re trying to make biking safer & more common, thereby increasing people’s ability to choose to use a bike &, thereby, world happiness. Agree or disagree, I think that’s what they’d say.
More importantly, though, I think you’ve done something rhetorically here on “those-on-the-left-say-x-and-those-on-the-right-say-y” that’s very common in centrist commentary, and pretty unjustified. Even if I’m wrong about Critical Mass, and they’re really saying, “burn newfangled cars and iPads,” if that’s all you can think of, then it is an unfair framing device to use them as the “some on the left.” Whether it makes us happy or sad, the fact is that they’re a pretty fringish group. It’s really not fair to say “some on the left want us to revert to 18th-century means of travel” or whatever based on what this small group says.
You saw this a lot in discussions of torture– “those on the right say that the president can authorize the crushing of the testicles of a terror suspect’s child; those on the left say that we may have to lose an American city or two in order to live up to our ideals.” But the “those on the right” in that circumstance was presidential advisor John Yoo; the “those on the left” existed solely in the imaginations of centrists.
Anyway, I agree with your goal in this post, I’m just not sure how best to get there.
I like your idea of an awareness campaign provided it costs little and works. I also agree that implementation could be problematic if the government starts tracking people’s whereabouts. I would hate that as well.
I think I am more struck by how easy it would be to increase productivity and save gas with this program. If a campaign does not work, maybe tax incentives or a grass roots campaign might do.
Hmmm, a grassroots campaign…
Please pass the link, below, around and try to get folks to take the actions listed on the home page. This is particularly relevant to anyone you know who has cancer.