Guest opinion by Pam Lott: If youíre like most people who are genuinely affected and troubled by the Gulf oil crisis, itís hard to think about the personal contribution you have in it by virtue of owning and operating a vehicle.

The tragic situation in the Gulf has left many of us feeling helpless and powerless. Our seemingly endless need for fossil fuels and need to feed our automobiles is the root cause of offshore drilling. Many of us are conscious about the choices we make and are trying to do the right thing.

If you're like most people who are genuinely affected and troubled by the Gulf oil crisis, it's hard to think about the personal contribution you have in it by virtue of owning and operating a vehicle. Work and family demands and limited public transportation options may make it necessary to have a car. You need to drive but you know the impact. So you feel guilty, or worse, dismissive of the situation because it's so hard to find options. Well, Ashland (Talent, too), you have an opportunity to do right by your values, lessen your guilt and keep your freedom.

Ashland CarShare is a nonprofit membership organization that provides neighborhood-based, fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles for personal use without the hassles and expenses of car ownership. We're mission-driven, not profit-driven. Our aim is to promote car-sharing as a means to reduce automobile dependence and to enhance the environmental and social integrity of our urban neighborhoods and planet.

Carsharing offers an opportunity to be more conscious about the transportation choices you make every day in our community by providing short-term rentals, neighborhood-based vehicles, self-accessing, different vehicles for different uses (coming soon) and full-turnkey service.

Your participation and support of carsharing helps: reduce carbon emissions, traffic and congestion; promote transit and alternative transportation choices; reduce your costs for transportation; reduce land needed for parking (which can reduce development costs and make housing more affordable); keep you local and support community economic development; businesses save money on fleets or rentals; and make you less fuel-dependent.

How does it work? You pay a one-time joining fee and then an annual fee based on the plan you choose. You can reserve a car anywhere from up to three months in advance to just hours before. You pay only for time and distance; we pay for everything else.

Is it right for you? Maybe so. Whether you are a student without a car or a one car family who needs an occasional extra set of wheels, Ashland CarShare will have a car or truck so you can shop, go to the doctor, spend the night on the town or a weekend away.

So ask yourself:

Can you get to work by car pooling, public transit, motorcycle, moped, biking or walking? Are you without a reliable car but still occasionally need one? Are you a single-car family with a regular need for a second car? Are you a college student who wants to leave your car at home but would like one to use once in a while? Is your household paying to own, insure, maintain and fuel more than one vehicle, or do you own a vehicle that is not used very much? Are you a car owner who wants access to a specialty vehicle like a pick-up truck on a regular basis without paying all-day prices for a rental car?

We need a paradigm shift from fuel dependence. Carsharing is the perfect segue. Whether you want to be a member or just lend us your support to keep this important community program flourishing, you can make a difference. Carsharing offers a practical, tangible way to improve the environment, promote community and build local economy.

Check out www.ashlandcarshare.com or visit our booth on the Fourth of July.

Pam Lott is a member of the Ashland CarShare board. Other board members are Becky Brown, Darren Campbell, Holly Christiansen, Michael Sheats and Kat Smith.