It’s Easy Being Green

George W. Bush doesn’t get it yet. But renewable energy is no longer the stuff of noble visions and pipe dreams: It’s available, inexpensive, and increasingly — normal.

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The more i surveyed my new car, the happier I got. “New car” is one of those phrases that makes Americans unreasonably happy to begin with. And this one — well, it was a particularly shiny metallic blue. Better yet, it was the first Honda Civic hybrid electric sold in the state of Vermont: I’d traded in my old Civic (40 miles to the gallon), and now the little screen behind the steering wheel was telling me that I was getting 50, 51, 52 miles to the gallon. Even better yet, I was doing nothing strange or difficult or conspicuously ecological. If you didn’t know there was an electric motor assisting the small gas engine — well, you’d never know. The owner’s manual devoted far more space to the air bags and the heating system. It didn’t look goofily Jetsonish like Honda’s first hybrid, the two-seater Insight introduced in 2000. Instead, it looked like a Civic, the most vanilla car ever produced. “Our goal was to make it look, for lack of a better word, normal,” explained Kevin Bynoe, spokesman for American Honda.

And the happier I got, the angrier I got. Because, as the Honda and a raft of other recent developments powerfully proved, energy efficiency, energy conservation, and renewable energy are ready for prime time. No longer the niche province of incredibly noble backyard tinkerers distilling biodiesel from used vegetable oil, or building homes from earth rammed into tires, the equipment and attitudes necessary to radically transform our energy system are now mainstream enough for those of us too lazy or too busy to try anything that seems hard. And yet the switch toward sensible energy still isn’t happening. A few weeks before I picked up my car, an overwhelming bipartisan vote in the Senate had rejected calls to increase the mileage of the nation’s new car fleet by 2015 — to increase it to 36 mpg, not as good as the Civic I’d traded in to buy this hybrid. The administration was pressing ahead with its plan for more drilling and refining. The world was suffering the warmest winter in history, as more carbon dioxide pushed global temperatures ever higher. And people were dying in conßicts across wide swaths of the world, the casualties — at least in some measure — of America’s insatiable demand for energy.

In other words, the gap between what we could be doing and what we are doing has never been wider.

The complete version of this article can be read in the July/August issue of Mother Jones, available on news stands now or through our online single-issue purchase feature.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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