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Where's the Vision?

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
February 15, 1999


Last week I had breakfast with a reader turned friend at Papa Gus's,the ultimate Leucadia hangout. Joining me was Dr. Jack Paxton, a retired plant pathologist who winters at Lake San Marcos. During our meeting we discussed all sorts of things, but the overriding conversation was about a lack of vision on the part of local government.

Gridlock has become synonymous with Southern California, and local officials only response is to widen the roads so that they can accommodate more traffic. This my friends, is like trying to cure Anthrax with more Anthrax. If I am not mistaken the Department of Transportation has not changed it's name to the Department of Freeways.

Let's face it folks San Diego County is not sustainable, and yet we are rolling out the red carpet for a million more people, and their 2.5 automobiles. Agricultural land is rapidly become tract home land, movie multiplex land, and let's not forget the jewel in North County's crown, Legoland. In America, the amount of land that is set aside for wilderness is equal to that of the land dedicated to the automobile. So now instead of land to grow food crops we have Carlsbad Car Country.

Ten thousand years ago, at the onset of agriculture, there were approximately 4 million human beings scurrying around Planet Earth. I ask you to consider the fact that currently we add that many people to the human population every 10 days. It was Edward Abbey who said "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." San Diego's North County has cancer, or in the vernacular of the old west, we have got a terminal case of consumption.

In 1979 America imported a third of it's oil, today we import 50 percent. "How are we going to stop relying on fossil fuels" you ask. Not to fear, Dr.Jack and I have come to a workable solution. Tax gasoline up the waazoo. In Norway, a net exporter of oil, gasoline sales for $4.00 a gallon. Here in San Diego people freak out if a gallon of gasoline is over $1.25. I should also point out that Norway has less than 250,000 private automobiles for a population of 4.4 million.

Here's the plan. By increasing the price of gasoline by a mere 25 cents per gallon, the government would raise billions of dollars annually. The billions of dollars raised could then go into funding mass transit, preferably elevated commuter trains that are powered by solar generated electricity. If America would increase the price of gasoline to European standards, we could not only build a national mass transit system, we could also subsidize it for as long as people continue to rely on fossil fuels.

If you are saying that you would never pay 5 dollars for a gallon of petrol, you should know that you already are. Remember that existing taxes go to pay the salaries of the traffic cop who just gave you a speeding ticket, as well as paying for road repairs and hospital fees related to traffic casualties of the uninsured. Add to that insurance payments, registration, and maintenance costs for keeping your shining metal boxes on the road.

I wonder how long we will continue to be led around by the industries that profit from pollution, while keeping us chained to the money sink known as the automobile.

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