By Andy Young
Like most Americans, I want minimal government involvement in my life, but there are rare occasions when I would welcome some meddling from the authorities, specifically when we the people have shown beyond the shadow of a doubt that we require collective guidance.
The most recent example of timely government intervention occurred in 2020. While nearly one million Americans have died due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic (982,809 thru April 10, according to the CDC), the toll would have been exponentially higher had it not been for federal, state and local masking requirements, not to mention the role government played in getting millions of people vaccinated against the virus as quickly as possible.
The only upside of the pandemic was that with no one going anywhere, gas prices plunged. Avaricious petroleum dealers were, for a time, forced to all but give away the gasoline they had on hand.
But COVID seems to be receding. Concerts and sports events are playing to full houses, mask mandates have been rolled back, and Big Oil is more than making up for the losses they absorbed in 2020 by hiking the prices of gas and home heating fuel to unprecedented levels.
There are, however, other issues that have nothing to do with any viruses.
The Gulf of Maine Research Institute reported that the average sea surface temperature in the gulf during September, October, and November of 2021 was, at 59.9 degrees Fahrenheit, four degrees higher than the long-term average temperature. That makes it, according to Dave Reidmiller, director of the GMRI climate center, “among the fastest-warming bodies of water in the world.”
This past Sunday I observed nine vehicles waiting in line at the drive-up window at Starbucks in South Portland when I walked by at about 10 a.m. The ones at the back of the queue (and those who later followed them) all waited, engines running, for 10 or more minutes for their overpriced, elaborately named caffeine hits. Two weeks earlier when I went by the same place at the same time there were 13 vehicles (11 of which were small trucks or SUV’s) lingering there.
Rational people recognize the role hydrocarbon emissions play in climate change, and everyone (rational and otherwise) knows gas prices are skyrocketing these days. Furthermore, anyone who walks, runs, bikes or drives on well-traveled roads is likely repelled by the amount of litter that lines all too many of America’s not-so-scenic roadways, and a closer examination of all that detritus reveals that the vast majority of it comes from fast-food outlets.
So why are so many people willing to, at significant expense, let their idling engines further pollute the environment?
Addiction to caffeine and fast food is part of the answer. So is laziness, since nearly every product one acquires at Starbucks, McDonald’s and other fast-food emporiums can be made at home, and often at a fraction of the cost one pays at the drive-up window. Also, corporate fast-food purveyors have no intention of reducing their already stratospheric profits without a fight, and they’ve got countless elected officials whose campaigns they’ve contributed to that are all too eager to wage it for them.
But the biggest reason people continue to pollute and spend too much on products they don't need while waiting inside their idling motor vehicles is because they still can.
An America free of drive-up windows would be cleaner, healthier and significantly better off environmentally.
I wish our overreaching government would leave us alone.
Except for now, when I wish they’d exhibit some common sense, show some backbone and outlaw drive-up windows. <