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How to Reduce Energy Needs for Long Distance Travel

Updated on January 9, 2018
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


Using large amounts of money to transport people all over the world to spend a few days or weeks in another part of the world “experiencing” it is a waste of energy. It is done on the hope that tourists will spend some money there, while ignoring the fact that their own prosperous citizens go elsewhere in similar numbers to spend their own money elsewhere. The only difference is the amount of energy wasted for this experience.

What should be done instead? How can we lower energy usage without dramatically lowering quality of life?

Travel costs consume money and energy.
Travel costs consume money and energy. | Source

Solutions for Reducing Transportation Demands

Do not build anything solely on the goal of being a tourist attraction to any group outside the surrounding region. Furthermore, governments of any size should not subsidize or wholly fund tourism projects, especially when there are critical infrastructure needs around the world that require limited government funds. Don’t waste money on a new stadium hoping tourists will come to fund it, when there are deteriorating bridges and pot-hole pocked roads nearby.

Build more schools that are smaller. These smaller schools can be placed more closely together, such as placing one elementary school in each neighborhood and having three or four smaller high schools instead of one massive high school of 2000 students in a city. Parents will not have to drive as far to take their children to school, while more people will feel comfortable letting their kids walk two blocks to school instead of hiking over a mile.

Do not spend government money on tourism campaigns. If others choose to travel of their own volition over great distances, that is their choice. Do not take money from strapped taxpayers to ask others to travel in to your area and view local attractions.

Realize that an economic focus on tourism from afar places the local economy at risk of boom and bust cycles, with tourism dying when the economy tanks. Focus on long term and sustainable industries that are capable of supplying work and economic value no matter the nation’s economic state.

The expectation that one can only have fun far from home discourages local travel to “tourist” attractions. This can be offset by promoting the facilities to locals, especially with discounts to those whose taxes have helped build or subsidize the facilities.

Governments should stop subsidizing tourism as part of their energy efficiency initiatives. This can be done by increasing tourist visa fees, limiting tourism visas, and no longer advertising for their own nation’s tourism in other countries. The tightening of tourism visas will also help reduce illegal immigration and terrorism that occur under the guise of visiting for fun.

Encourage small industrial businesses in commercial business parks, while permitting a few commercial businesses to be run in former residences. Moving commercial activities like telemarketing firms into former residences means that more people can walk to work. Allowing small industrial businesses in commercial parks provides a more diverse employment market than a strip mall.

Tourism should no longer be billed as a means of funding conservation efforts. It makes protection of a wilderness area dependent on the whims of public opinion AND their ability to pay to come to the area. Fund conservation with hunting or gathering products (wild herbs, locally culled trophies sold to hunters, seeds), images, graphics, and videos as well as indigenous handicrafts. This has the potential to employ far more people than a few park wardens and hotel staff. It is also cheaper to implement and sustain a handicrafts, animal and plant products set than manage an ebb and flow of thousands of visitors.

Loosen zoning restrictions that limit small industry in personal garages and literal cottage industries, so that these workers do not have to commute to industrial or commercial zones to work.

Do not rip out existing housing stock that is occupied by the low income (older single family homes and trailer parks) in the hope of developing retail, commercial and luxury housing. You will force these people to move farther from existing employment opportunities and drive long distances to work.

Use software applications to hold online meetings instead of traveling to the customer. Use remote desktop support tools instead of sending a service representative to the customer. While this cannot replace all face to face service, even at partial reduction in travel saves money and energy.

Require employees to get permission to travel for business and plan the most cost-effective and direct route possible. Encourage meetings via teleconferencing with tools like Skype and online meetings instead of travel. And to set a good example, environmentalists and NGOs need to stop flying massive numbers of people into conferences to discuss these matters and instead imitate TED Talks.

Plan for them to ride-share instead of taking separate cars to an event.


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