Over the last two decades, foodies have encouraged people to slow down and take pleasure in the simpler, finer things in life, such as home-grown foods, craft beers and artisan wines.
The slow movement isn't about doing everything at a snail's pace, it's about doing things at the right speed to do them well. Photo credit: iStockphoto.
This culinary trend has been dubbed "slow food", in homage to a book written by a Scottish-born Canadian Carl Honoré’s In Praise of Slow, which calls for the deliberate rejection of over-hurried, novelty-obsessed modern life in favour of doing everything slowly enough to do it as well as possible.
The slow lifestyle approach has spawned not only slow food but also slow design and slow travel, which is all about savouring the journey by forsaking jet planes and high-speed trains for bicycles, sail boats and walking shoes.
It appears the slow movement has now expanded to include driving style. In Canada there’s the 90kmh Economy Drive, an initiative championing a voluntary reduction in highway driving speed. The American equivalent is Drive 55. (Drive 55 conjures up memories of the United States’ frequently subverted National Maximum Speed Law, introduced by President Carter in 1974 during the first oil price shock. The law prohibited motorists from exceeding the double nickel for much of the 1970s. It was also America’s first national speed limit, and when it was repealed in 1995 most states re-imposed their old limits. Nonetheless, current maximum speed limits are said to be, on average, lower than in 1974.)
In explaining its slow driving proposition, the people behind the 90kmh Economy Drive point out that 90 kilometres per hour (or 55 miles per hour) is, in fact, the average optimum speed for maximizing automobile fuel efficiency, and each eight km over 100 kilometres per hour can reduce one’s fuel economy by seven to eight percent.
By easing up on the gas pedal, advocates argue, not only will you save gasoline and money at a time of high gas prices, you will also help curb greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from transportation, which, in Canada, accounts for more than a quarter of the country’s GHG emissions.
Operating differently to boost efficiencies is a concept we as energy producers can embrace too. Faced with the challenge of managing a GHG emissions portfolio collectively forecast to rise, oil sands operators are striving to improve energy efficiency across their operations. Although oil sands production accounts for 6.5 percent of Canada’s GHG emissions, our energy use is directly linked to our GHG emissions. Any improvements in energy efficiency chip away at our overall GHG footprint.
Suncor, for example, believes our largest and most effective near-term opportunity for reducing our GHG emissions is through improved energy efficiency and improved plant reliability. Accordingly, as part of our Climate Change Action Plan, we’re implementing a comprehensive energy management system to help us reach our target of a corporate-wide 10 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2015 (as compared to 2007). The system includes a set of tools, metrics and accountabilities to track energy use and find improvement opportunities.
Will slow driving catch on? We’re not sure, as the thought of Batman, James Bond and the Fast and Furious holding at 90 km per hour would surely take the fun out of any future movies. And who wants to be the one to tell Formula One racing driver Michael Schumacher to throttle it down?