Glenn Reynolds sees telecommuting as a 21st century way to address energy concerns. It’s great if your car gets good mileage, but it’s even better if you can just skip the daily commute (shameless plug: Look for my soon-to-be-released study on telecommuting!) Here’s Glenn:
Managers and unions don’t like this much: Managers because they like to have workers in plain sight (which also makes managers look more important), and unions because it’s harder to organize workers who aren’t all in one place. But while there’s still plenty of work that can’t be done at home, there’s a lot more these days that can, and people who work at home use a lot less gas … What’s more, the federal government, which has lots of employees, and lots of jobs that can be done from home, should take a very aggressive role in promoting telecommuting internally. If this shrinks the demand for new federal buildings, so much the better. It also occurs to me that once “working” doesn’t come to mean “being in the office for eight hours regardless of whether anything gets done,” people might start looking for output-related metrics, which might allow us to shrink the number of federal employees — something sure to make both managers and unions unhappy, but something also likely to be good news for taxpayers. Likewise, I think it’s worth encouraging shopping from home, too. I order a lot of things from the Web specifically because it saves me the hassle of venturing out into traffic to visit stores, but when I avoid that hassle I avoid burning gas, too. True, the delivery truck burns gas — but it’s delivering to a lot of other homes at the same time it’s delivering to mine, so overall it winds up using considerably less per person than if everyone shops individually. As we formulate energy policies, we should try to ensure that home-delivery services are encouraged, or at least not put to extra trouble. If even a modest percentage of grocery-shopping runs, for example, were replaced by internet shopping and home delivery, gas consumption would be substantially reduced — particularly as I suspect that the early adopters would tend to be the people facing the longest drives. As an added bonus, to the extent that more people work at home instead of in crowded office buildings, there’s also a homeland-security and public-health benefit: There would be fewer dense targets for terrorism, and probably fewer opportunities for people to spread, and catch, infectious bugs ranging from the common cold to avian flu.
Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.