America is Growing

The Guardian U.K. observes that the end of cheap oil is changing driving habits, boosting public transit use and encouraging localization. In short, they are making America a bigger place.

"It is known as the Inland Empire: a vast stretch of land tucked in the high desert valleys east of Los Angeles. Once home to fruit trees and Indians, it is now a concrete sprawl of jammed freeways, endless suburbs and shopping malls.

But here, in the heartland of the four-wheel drive, a revolution is under way. What was once unthinkable is becoming a shocking reality: America's all-consuming love affair with the car is fading.

Surging petrol prices have worked where environmental arguments have failed. Many Americans have long been told to cut back on car use. Now, facing $4-a-gallon fuel, they have no choice."

"In the face of expensive fuel and crashing property prices, the one-time embodiment of a certain American dream will become crime-ridden, dotted by empty lots and home to the poor and unemployed. That is already happening as crime and gang violence has risen in many suburban areas and tens of thousands of homes have been reposessed because of the mortgage crisis.

In effect, suburbs will become the new inner cities, even as once-abandoned American downtowns are undergoing a remarkable renaissance. Even malls, the ultimate symbol of American life since the war, are undergoing a crisis as consumers start to stay away.

But there are even deeper changes going on. The car, the freeway system and cheap air travel made America smaller. Everywhere was easily accessible. That, too, is ending. Higher fuel prices have dealt a terrible blow to America's airlines. They are slashing flights, raising costs and abandoning routes. Some small cities are now losing their air connections.

In effect, America is becoming larger again."

Full Story: America's love affair fades as the car becomes burden of suburbia

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