O.K., I know that these days you’re supposed to see the future in China or India, not in the heart of “old Europe.”
But we’re living in a world in which oil prices keep setting records, in which the idea that global oil production will soon peak is rapidly moving from fringe belief to mainstream assumption. And Europeans who have achieved a high standard of living in spite of very high energy prices — gas in Germany costs more than $8 a gallon - have a lot to teach us Americans about how to deal with that world.
If Europe’s example is any guide, here are the two secrets of coping with expensive oil: Own fuel-efficient cars, and don’t drive them too much…
To see what I’m talking about, consider where I am at the moment: in a pleasant, middle-class neighborhood consisting mainly of four- or five-story apartment buildings, with easy access to public transit and plenty of local shopping.
It’s the kind of neighborhood in which people don’t have to drive a lot, but it’s also a kind of neighborhood that barely exists in America, even in big metropolitan areas. Greater Atlanta has roughly the same population as Greater Berlin — but Berlin is a city of trains, buses and bikes, while Atlanta is a city of cars, cars and cars.
Paul Krugman: iht/nytimes, 19.05.2008.
Sonnenallee, Berlin, 09.2010. (my own photo)