Next target for environmentalists: Drive-throughs

One Wisconsin city is discussing a plan to tick off plenty of convenience-seeking drivers: Ban drive-through windows. It's being considered in the name of environmentalism. After all, what city can claim to be "green" if it allows a driver to idle a car for two minutes while trying to get a cup of coffee or a Happy Meal?

"Climate change" (name recently changed because "global warming" didn't cut it anymore in light of the cold winter with an excess of snow) is causing politicians on the Madison Plan Commission to consider the ban. The concept came up as the commission was considering a request from a local Starbucks to add a drive-through. No drive-through means less idling of cars and therefore fewer emissions into the atmosphere.

One commission member is saying that news reports are blown out of proportion and they aren't considering an outright ban on drive-throughs. He says a more likely scenario is that the city would not approve any new drive-throughs, leaving the current businesses intact. The Starbucks asking to be approved is safe for the time being, and their drive-through is a go.

The concept of banning drive-throughs isn't all together new. Several Canadian cities are apparently considering such bans to improve air quality through reduced idling of cars. But where does it stop? No stoplights anymore because it might cause vehicles to idle while drivers are waiting? Or everyone must turn off their cars while waiting at stoplights? If politicians were really serious about being environmentally friendly, they'd just ban cars all together. After all, should we really take any chances? If we ban them now, we can save the planet!

The truth is that every good idea can be taken too far. I'm all in favor of being friendly to our atmosphere when we can. These decisions have to be done strategically, balancing the needs and wants of people and the economy, and being environmentally friendly in general. But when things like this cross over and result in taking away our liberties, I think they're going too far.

And isn't such a policy more about substance over form anyway? How much idling is going on in drive-through lines, and will there be any meaningful impact on the atmosphere by banning drive-throughs? I doubt it.

It's one thing for boards like this to make policies that truly protect the safety and well-being of the general public. It's another thing to restrict our liberties in a way that doesn't offer a real benefit to anyone, and is merely a stunt to make it look like the board is politically correct and doing something for the people.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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