Jeremy Rifkin and his fellow environmentalists have come up with a wonderful idea, and I hope they pursue it with great vigor.
Rifkin is president of an environmental group called Greenhouse Crisis Foundation.
His group has banded with others to launch a nationwide program called "Ticket America."
Their idea is to go around slapping tickets on the windshields of cars that they consider environmentally incorrect gas guzzlers.
The tickets will have no legal standing. The idea is to shame the owners of the cars into getting rid of the gas guzzlers and buying vehicles that are acceptable to Rifkin and his associates.
It's their goal to recruit enough like-minded volunteers so that they can ticket at least 1 million cars in the next year.
Now, they aren't talking about some 1976 smoke-belching rust heap of an old Caddy or pickup truck.
They have established standards for various types of domestic and foreign cars.
For example, if you drive a luxury car, they prefer that you buy a Volvo rather than a BMW, since the Volvo gives better mileage.
But what if you prefer a BMW to a Volvo? Or a Lincoln with the big V-8 engine? Or a conversion van?
That's no excuse. As Rifkin says: "When someone drives a gas guzzling vehicle, it's not just a matter of their personal choice in vehicles. The automobile they purchase affects the lives of others, it affects our environment . . . the right of future generations to enjoy this planet."
They have put together their own list of cars in every class, from the tiny ones to the big ones, that they consider acceptable or unacceptable.
If you drive a car that Rifkin and his zealots consider unkind to our planet, it's possible that you will find a "ticket" under your windshield, chiding you for your selfishness and lack of environmental sensitivity.
Of course, there could be risk involved in nagging someone about his choice of vehicles. Many people are tired of being nagged about something or other by total strangers. Smokers have been made to feel lower than crack users. Wearers of fur coats are hounded on the streets. Utter a kind word about Christopher Columbus and you are a neo-fascist.
So there are those who might feel offended if they see a stranger putting a nag-note under their windshield wiper.
Rifkin anticipates some angry responses. "We will not shy away from direct confrontation in the streets," he says. "I think a lot of people are going to be upset when their car is ticketed. I have no doubt about it."
I agree. And that's why I think it is such a wonderful idea. News is my business. It's how I pay the bills, put a roof over the family's head, buy the cat food.
And when Rifkin's volunteers begin making pests of themselves, driving up the blood pressure of decent folk, it will be news when some of these politically correct nags get bashed in the face.
Oh, it will happen. Americans don't like people messing with their cars, even if it is merely to slip an elitist note on the windshield. And both the law of averages and human nature say that if you bug enough people that way, a few of them are going to flatten your honker.
I hope Rifkin is sincere when he says: "We will not shy away from direct confrontation in the streets." If so, I would like to extend an invitation to Rifkin.
My grungy van probably qualifies as a gas guzzler. At least by Rifkin's standards, although there was a time when it would have been considered economical.
So if Rifkin is planning on visiting Chicago, I would like advance notice. I will arrange to leave my car in a pre-determined location, allowing Rifkin to issue a ticket accusing me of being politically incorrect and of having cruel and blatant disregard for the planet and unborn generations of little Rifkins.
When he has written the ticket and put it under my wiper, I will leap out from behind the car, swat him with a tire iron, kick his ribs and jump up and down on his chest. Then I will slip a ticket into his pocket, accusing him of being a pain in the neck of society.
Actually, I wouldn't do something like that, but thinking about it makes me feel good.
On the other hand, I might do it. Then I'd feel even better.