I try to be as sustainable as possible at the shop here. We try and keep the energy consumption down. I ride my bike once I'm in Faribault almost all the time. I buy food in recycleable containers from loca growers and so on and so forth. Unfortunately I do have to drive the 14 miles or so to work. Yes, I could ride my bike, and we often do. But when we're crazy busy at the shop for 8-9 hours in a day, an hour ride both ways makes for a really long day. Not to mention that for five months out of the year, it's dark before I'd get home. On shoulder less country roads, that's not possible for safety reasons. All this said, there is a partial solution.
Last fall, we found the perfect car to try and make best use of the petroleum needed to get here. It's a 1991 Honda Civic hatchback. That's right, not only to Guitar Ted and I share many of the same ideas about what makes a good bike, we also drive very similar cars! It was about the perfect deal. We bought it from a Carleton College professor in Northfield. She had reached the age that she was no longer able to ride to school with all of her books and class materials. They found there solution, (after her also professor husband won on Jeopardy a few times!) in this little white car. So it only really got driven 4 blocks at a time for 15 years! Hard miles, but very low. How low you ask? The car had 14,900 miles on it when we bought it. No kidding.
The car to date has been nothing less than stellar. It is as basic as it gets. It has a 1.3 liter engine, with a manual 4 spd transmission. It has no electric anything, a nice stereo, and no air. Brandon and I have been driving it pretty consistently at 50-55 mph all summer, letting the car coast down hills. It does not get driven in town hardly at all, as we ride bikes about every where else. The car has been averaging above 40 mpg on every tank! The car's worst tank so far has been about 35 mpg, but that was helping a guy move, so a lot of short trips in town. Today was the good one though. I had driven just about 200 miles on the tank, all of it just between Northfield and Faribault. As I went to fill up, the car only took 3.8 gallons. This works out to be about 52 mpg!
I've been having a lot of discussions with people lately about all the hype about hybrids, bio-diesel, corn based ethanol and the like. Here's what I keep coming back to though: If 1991 technology, responsible driving habits, and in town biking can produce a system that gets 45-50 mpg consistently, why aren't we that much further than we are almost 20 years down the road?