Over the last 30 years, suburban and exurban development, especially in fast-growing Sunbelt cities, have produced sprawling mega-lopolises, wherein workers may live an hour’s drive (or more) from the workplace. Those suburbs aren’t exclusive enclaves of the affluent, either. Many suburbs are economically and racially diverse, so more families of modest means live far from work. A dime a gallon can break the budget.

It’s easy to look back and see what might have been: If Congress and state legislatures had adopted policies back in the 1970s that discouraged never-ending sprawl and encouraged public transit, they would have slowed consumption and eased the pain at the pump. Of course, we can’t travel back in time for a do-over.

But even those policies we could still adopt — pouring serious money into research and development of alternative fuels and boosting public transit, for example — are stalled by Congressional bickering and inertia. Perhaps we’ll get serious when gas reaches ten dollars a gallon.