The best place in the country to appreciate the marvels of our interstate highway system is heading west out of Denver on I-70 in Colorado. The road climbs and dips at a steep grade, taking cars across the Rockies, a range that includes some of North America’s tallest mountains. Fifty or so miles out of town, the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel, which takes travelers underneath the continental divide, marks the highest point in the entire interstate system, at 11,155 feet. Building the first of the memorial tunnel’s two bores, the one named after Eisenhower, cost more than $100 million, an extraordinary sum at the time.
This afternoon, the Obama administration rejected an application from transmission company TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport carbon-rich oil from Canada’s tar sands, through America’s heartland, to refineries in Texas.
In the early 1970s, when Congress was pushing for fuel-efficiency standards as a response to the oil crisis, scaremongering on this issue fell to auto executives. A Chrysler vice president told Congress in 1974 that, trucks aside, fuel economy could outlaw full-sized sedans and station wagons and that within five years, Detroit would exclusively produce subcompact cars. Pickup trucks would be no more.