Inelasticity, SUVs and Idling

We moved to our Boston suburb in large part because of the quality of the schools, lots of woods, and location. As you can probably guess, there are a lot of well-healed families here (though perhaps disproportionately fewer now, given the number who work in the financial sector). But, there are some things that disturb me – increasingly so – about where we live. First is that this affluent community expects town services – especially education – to maintain a high level; but these same people are unwilling to pay the relatively small marginal cost (because of our tax situation) that is required. Recent municipal votes announced this loudly.

That leads directly to my next gripe: If you look at any parking lot in town, you could believe that we’re actually a giant, upscale SUV dealership. By now you should know my view of these gas guzzlers from a sustainability standpoint.

But I’m seeing something more onerous than the mere existence of these vehicles. At the town’s several schools, legions of these Abrams Tank wannabes line up each day as much as twenty minutes before dismissal so they can be near the head of the line. And, many sit there with the engine running for the duration. Just imagine their carbon footprint; the greenhouse gases emitted for no good reason. Add that to the waste of fuel. And, no, this behavior, from what I observed, didn’t abate when gasoline topped $4.00 a gallon. We are an inelastic town.

The aphorism “think globally, act locally” applies here. Yes, it’s cold outside in New England. Folks, your electrically heated seats and steering wheels will work off the battery, without the engine running. If not, try dressing more warmly, as you would if you walked your dog in the cold.

But, there may be a partial solution to both this budget and environmental problem: Massachusetts has an “Anti-Idling” law. Vehicles are not allowed to idle for more than five minutes except for specific reasons (waiting on line for your child isn’t one of them). Fines can be levied up to $100 for the first offense and up to $500 for each succeeding offense. Enforce it.

Now let’s see how inelastic you are.

– Posted by Tom Witkin

About these ads

Thomas Witkin A few years ago, my background and passion about renewable and sustainable energy bubbled to the surface. Today, I work for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to broaden the reach of our clean energy message, in large part by building web-based collaboration for our internal teams and connected communities for all our constituents. Prior to joining DOER, I completed an intriguing ride as VP of Marketing at SiteScape, Inc. (web-based collaboration) that culminated in our acquisition by Novell, Inc.). I received an MBA from the Stanford Biz School and a AB in Technology and Public Policy from Harvard.

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2 comments on “Inelasticity, SUVs and Idling
  1. swandiver says:

    That’s just the thing though isn’t it? I’m sure they feel that as long as they can pay for the extra gas, it should be their right to idle. And while they can buy their way to to better healthcare and less polluted areas when the time comes, it’s going to be the working class people like us who get the brunt of it.

    I think they’d much rather use the anti-idling law in neighborhoods where that $100 could mean the difference in someone’s rent or not then actually applying to people who can afford it.

  2. Josh Maxwell says:

    You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, Ive spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

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