RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Just imagine how much smaller everyone’s carbon “footprint” would be if we could all telecommute to our jobs rather than burn gas and waste time in parking lots mislabeled as expressways or interstates.

SAS wouldn’t need to build that five-acre solar farm it announced Tuesday. And if enough people walked upstairs or down the hall to an in-home office we could tell OPEC where to shove its $140-barrel oil and $4 a gallon gas. Where that oil should go is someplace where the sun doesn’t shine.

What we need are more groups like the new one unveiled in Washington on Tuesday – Internet for Everyone, a coalition that plans to push for more high-speed access in the United States of limited broadband.

Each year technology surveys show how the U.S. leads in R&D yet lags in what really is a basic requirement in a wired world – fast navigation online be it for entertainment, news or work.

Fortunately, I’m telecommuting today. Unfortunately, my choice is due to health issues, not environmental. But with the help of my home broadband connection and a reasonably fast Lenovo ThinkPad plus BlackBerry I have access to all the information I need to do my job.

However, most Americans can’t work virtually. They either don’t have fast access or the right hardware or the personal fortitude – or permission of the “suits” to do so.

C’mon, folks in the executive suite. Cut the cords. Empower your people.

C’mon, workers. Unite. Demand the right to save money, park your car, save the Earth and go "green" by working at home.

C’mon, providers, speed up the broadband rollout – and use the "green" advantages of your investments to drive support from local, state and federal governments.

Let’s go green by working at home.

Otherwise, someday many of us won’t be able to afford the commute to work – even if we can find the gas needed to get us there.

 The Internet for Everyone’s Web site documents broadband access by state and points out a major obstacle to wide-scale telecommuting: Around 50 percent market penetration of high-speed services.

In North Carolina, for example, broadband is in use at 47 percent of households but 4.8 million Tar Heels are stuck at dialup speed or have opted out of high-priced services.

In South Carolina, broadband access is at 39 percent with 2.7 million folks not on the info highway.

In Georgia, broadband tops 54 percent but 4.5 million people are still dialed in – if at all – to the Net.

Soaring gas costs certainly will encourage more people to go high speed. A 20-mile commute to RTP five times a week – that’s 200 miles. Figure your jalopy gets 20 MPG, that means workers are burning up $40 a week in gas just to get to the office. That’s $160 per month.

Cable Internet costs, what, $50 or so plus fees?

This economic decision is a slam dunk. Save money. Don’t drive.

Now, if the bosses will just say “Yes!”