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Introduction

Attention to climate change (global warming) grows each day. At or near the top of any listing for ways to remedy the impact of climate change is a group of ways to make the commute to the workplace more energy efficient. Any discussion of increasing the energy efficiency of the workplace commute always includes items such as better fuel economy for existing gasoline powered vehicles, expanding use of hybrid vehicles, increasing use of ethanol fuel additives, advancing development for hydrogen powered vehicles, and extended use of mass transit services that may use of what amounts to nineteenth century technology in the form light rail mass transit service.

The main roadblock facing proponents of alternative fuels for vehicles is that the technologies and infrastructure required for widespread implementation of the alternative fuels is either not fully developed or simply not available as a technology at the present time. In the case of ethanol, which would be used as an additive for gasoline or diesel fuel, the cost of expanding manufacture of the additive must be weighed against the cost of expanding production for the raw material required for the production of the fuel. Production of ethanol provides two additional problems involving its distribution and use. First, the properties of ethanol make it impossible to transport in a pipeline, which means ethanol can be transported only by truck, train or barge. To reduce distribution costs due to the transport limitations it is important that ethanol production be relatively close to the final distribution point. Second, use of ethanol as a fuel produces less energy than gasoline, which means drivers must make more frequent trips to the pump. In the case of alternative fuels such as hydrogen the technology required for a production system is barely beyond the basic laboratory experimentation phase. With all alternative fuels the infrastructure for both delivery and distribution is either not currently available in any form or available in very limited areas throughout the world. In addition, wide acceptance of alternative fuels would require that drivers either replace or modify their existing vehicles.

The main roadblock facing proponents of the expansion of mass transit schemes, including use of light rail, is that use of the automobile, including the SUV and light trucks, is deeply entrenched in the collective consciousness for most cultures in the developed world. Drivers have made a substantial financial and psychological investment in their vehicles. Thus, not only do local governments face an uphill struggle in getting reluctant voters to approve even the exploration of any project to develop expanded bus or light rail systems, and these same reluctant voters must be approached not only to approve funding for the implementation of such systems but also again in any effort to build a rider base to support such systems at a level that would have any significant impact on reducing energy demand. Without the support of the target audience there can be no future for any mass transit system designed to improve energy efficiency and reduce the demand for fossil fuels.

More rarely discussed as alternatives for reducing the energy demand in getting to the workplace are such things as telecommuting and proximity commuting. Telecommuting has been available for an extremely limited number of workers for decades. The largest group of telecommuters work as outside sales representatives where going into an office might be required only for periodic training and meetings. In fact, this group of outside sales workers may be on the road most of the day and use a home office to do some of the paperwork required for their employment. Another smaller group of telecommuters work as customer service or technical support representatives with organizations that can make such opportunities for experienced workers. Finally, any home worker may also consider themselves as being a telecommuter. Working in the home environment, as a telecommuter, can be difficult because most workers are more productive when in proximity of other workers. Proximity commuting simply means that a worker is fortunate enough to find employment that is close to their residence or in some cases is able to commute in the opposite direction of a larger number of commuters.

The concept of moving the workplace closer for large numbers of workers provides a much more efficient way to reduce the energy cost of getting workers to their workplace. The reason such a concept has not been seriously considered previously is that decision-makers at all levels in both the public and private sectors have been looking at the prospect without fully evaluating the existing problem and how technology could be used to present a solution. The good news is that it is possible to move the workplace to less than 3-5 miles of large numbers of workers using existing technology. The process of moving the workplace closer to the worker involves a fundamental change in the way worker and employer view the work environment, but the result provides a solution beneficial to worker, employer, governments, and the environment. This new way of defining the workplace environment is presented as the Community Commerce Center. Creation of Community Commerce Centers can be done using only existing technology, which means there are no technology barriers preventing immediate implementation.

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