Car culture anchors, drags U.S. economy

Can nation break free from fossil-fuel grip?

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only that gives everything its value." –American revolutionary Thomas Paine

Much of what America has accomplished in the last two centuries is indebted to that understanding — whether we’re talking about the cost of liberty or the impetus for our celebrated Yankee thrift. Alas, as great a nation as we remain today, we’re clearly losing sight of Paine’s premise.

For much of its existence, America has been blessed with cheap and plentiful resources, many of which have come at the expense of our global neighbors. In the last 100 years, however, no single resource has shaped the nation as profoundly as our easy access to cheap oil.

It’s led to the primacy of personal cars, which in turn has radically affected the design of American cities during the course of the 20th century.