Thursday, February 09, 2006

Hello, we're doomed, have a nice day

I'm a day behind, but I thought this story from yesterday's NYT was noteworthy enough to mention: well-meaning hybrid owners are driving an expensive symbol that they're worried about our planet, rather than a true solution. I sort of suspected that may be true, mostly out of cynicism than any actual knowledge of the economics involved. This, plus hints that ethanol and biodiesel may not be the solutions we're looking for either, adds to the utter pessimism I've been feeling lately about the state of ... well everything. Of course, solutions like lowering consumption/emissions through efficient and ubiquitous mass transit won't fly because they would cost the bosses some money ...

But, to make myself feel better I've been listening to some crazy cool soundage I found via Rummage Through The Crevices.


htrouser said...

I've been sharing your sense of absolute despair lately too, largely because of the federal budget. Nice that the post-Katrina budget slashes what meagre social programmes there are to pay for war and tax cuts for the rich. We really learned a whole lot there, didn't we? Urgh.

One other point the NY Times piece on hybrids missed: when hybrids first started coming out I read an article somewhere (maybe even somewhere really evil, like Business Week, as I think I had a job in the business school library at the time) that argued that car manufacturers could easily get non-hybrids up to 45 mpg if they wanted to, without the $3-5000 sticker premium that hybrids come with. Hybrids, then, serve as a way to allow manufacturers not to bother to cheaply improve the fuel efficiency and emissions of *all* their vehicles.

And I'm confused that some fundies are now getting on board with the being worried about global warming thing. If Jebus is returning in five years, why worry? Is this in itself a sign of the end times?

lisa said...

the fuel mileage of the prius is overrated. the fuel mileage of the insight is not. real-life numbers from insight owners tend to be in the 60mpg range IIRC, and ranging up to 70mpg. honda in general seems to be a more responsible auto maker, with a large number of fuel efficient cars in their lineup.

the thing that this article misses is the fact that hybrids are zero emissions cars. that's a benefit, because emissions = global warming.

as for biofuels, i'd like to see a study done using recycled veggie oil for biodiesel. i'll buy that with fresh stock, especially considering that petrochemicals are used as fertilizers, biodiesel may be a wash, but with recycled oil it's a different story.

also, again, the global warming angle comes into play. the problem with burning petroleum is that we're releasing a lot of carbon into the atmosphere very quickly, carbon that has been trapped for a very long time. with biofuels, they have what is referred to as a "closed carbon cycle". ie, we're releasing carbon that was accessible on the surface of the earth anyway. i'm not a scientist so i'm kind of taking that one on faith, and maybe i shouldn't.

finally, diesel cars can be easily modified to burn straight vegetable oil, no processing needed, so the complaint that biofuels take more energy to produce than they provide doesn't apply.

oh, and one other thing i learned recently. big energy plants are a more efficient way to burn petrochemicals than cars are. so if you get your car power from a big energy plant-- say in the case of an electric car-- that's more efficient, at least in terms of amount of fuel burned, possibly also in terms of emissions.

the new Make magazine apparently has tons of articles on electric cars and the environmental implications.

htrouser said...

Wait, how are hybrids zero emission? Don't they also burn gasoline, and therefore pollute, albeit in smaller quantities? I know the Insight, for example, is a SULEV (super ultra low emission), but that's different to zero emission. Sorry to sound pedantic, but I'm sort of drunk right now! Oh, and Insights just look cool. And only carry two people. Fuck you, I'm not driving you home, I have an Insight!

Lisa B. said...

Thanks lisa--maybe there is a glimmer of hope, but then I remember that we live in a profit-driven system, not a needs-driven system, and I lose the hope again.

Now if someone would make a high-mileage, zero-or-super-low emissions DOGMOBILE (i.e. able to carry at least two large dog crates, two passengers and assorteds/sundries) I would feel a little better ...

lisa said...

to be honest, i wish bush would lower the speed limit rather than going on about biofuels.

or that the highway patrol would enforce the speed limit.