Halfway through Day One, we seem to have established a theme:
But I’m wondering: Until electricity is generated by converting your bad karma into good vibes, aren’t we simply transferring our energy demands to things like coal-burning plants (the standard in my part of the country), river-destroying hydroelectric or, gasp, nuclear? I mean, I’m all for zero emissions, but at some point it’s like squeezing the toothpaste around in the tube. Oh, well. Life is the journey, not the destination. Speaking of electric, here’s Chrysler’s concept:
It’s the 200c EV, another range-extending mostly electric hybrid like the Volt — the first 40 miles are all-electric, etc. What makes this car special — or horrifying, depending on your outlook — is its unprecedented digital FunPak, which includes onboard wifi, and I only wish I was kidding, but you’ll be able to access FaceBook from your car, and your car will have “mobile buddies.” I look forward to the status updates: Taking Fat Ass to Domino’s again. I’ll bet she orders the lowfat cheese. The Chrysler executive sketched out a scenario where you’d start your car via your iPhone, and if it gets stolen? You pick up the same phone and tell it to come home immediately, young man, and while it won’t exactly do that, you can disable it wherever it stands and take a picture of the thievin’ driver. It also has something called “teen mode,” to rat out your kid.
Signs and wonders.
Rana said on January 11, 2009 at 2:44 pm
The point about where the electricity comes from is a good one. The advantage of switching to power-plant-based energy production versus in-car is one of pollution control. It’s easier to regulate fixed point sources than multiple moving sources.
In terms of energy conservation overall, or the cleanliness of the energy, that really depends on the way that the electricity is generated. As you note, some means involve displacing urban pollution and resource costs to rural, impoverished areas. We have cleaner city streets, but erosion and toxic waste in the hills.
(It’s not unlike the problems with the claims that nuclear or biodiesel will free us from the petroleum yoke – the production and mining of the raw materials and their refinement don’t come out of thin air – those processes themselves demand petroleum usage. Similarly, a car that achieves a higher mpg by using a lighter, plastics-based body coupled with batteries saves gasoline in the operation, but may well require a lot of petroleum and petroleum products in the production stage – not to mention the issues with disposal and recycling at the end of its life.)
Deborah said on January 11, 2009 at 3:29 pm
Think wind and sun produced electricity. That’s the ticket for the long term.
Rana said on January 11, 2009 at 3:48 pm
Deborah, I agree that those are the best bets so far. But even, then, there’s no free lunch: you have to make the generators and solar panels out of something, which requires mining, manufacturing, and shipping. Ideally, they are installed in unused areas (like rooftops) but they can do damage to local ecosystems if they are not (there are documented reports of tall windfarms interfering with bird migratory flightways, and there’s a planned solar farm that’d be devastating to the desert in which it would be constructed if it goes through).
It’s not unlike the whole “buy green” movement – buying green is better than buying “nongreen” but what they never want to tell you is that not buying at all is an option, let alone one that may be superior, nor do they point out that while altering individual consumption patterns is important, it’s larger corporate practices that cause the majority of the problems.
Deborah said on January 11, 2009 at 5:44 pm
Well, obviously the energy has to come from somewhere. The idea is to do as little harm as possible. And of course cutting down on the consumption of energy is going to be an important component to the solution. It’s not going to be easy, in the least.
grapeshot said on January 11, 2009 at 6:12 pm
As an electrical engineer who works in a “smokestack” industry, I often snicker at what people blather about when they talk about being “green”. Nancy is exactly right; every form of energy has a cost, and switching to another form only transfers that cost elsewhere. I’m not saying that we should give up trying to find good solutions to the problems caused by our energy demands, only that we shouldn’t be glib about it.
It’s a pretty car, as is the Cadillac ..uh… Converj, is it?
That’s the one thing I always liked about Detroit: they really knew how to make sexy looking cars. It’s the one reason I kept buying their products over the years. (Oh yes, I’m THAT shallow. I don’t so much care how well it works, only that it looks good.)
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 11, 2009 at 7:11 pm
I’m enjoying the auto divertissment, but i have to off-topically wedge this in: not only the head of my home tradition is preaching for the National Prayer Service on Jan. 21 in the National Cathedral at Pres. Obama’s request, but a lady who used to pastor the church down the road from my home church (she was at Boone Grove, Indiana, if you care) — http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/us/politics/11minister.html
Her husband and my dad used to go to all sorts of car related events together (i’m not the best son in the “caring about cars” dept.).
Thank you, Barack Obama, for remembering a gifted pastor months later and giving her a place to speak from. She won’t let you down, of this i am certain!
nancy said on January 11, 2009 at 7:13 pm
I think this is what it comes down to for me: Solar and wind are great ideas, but like all energy sources, they have problems. I did a story on alt-energy in Michigan, and talked to half a dozen entrepreneurs with fingers in various pies, and they all said the same thing: Whatever they were pushing was part of, but not the entire, solution. You’ll never meet the state’s electrical needs entirely with wind, but you’ll meet some of it, and some is better than nothing.
This appeals to my common sense because complicated problems rarely have simple solutions. Also, you rarely get the entire answer in one step, and these cars are steps on the road toward a better automotive model, whatever it might be. You can only see as far as your headlights, after all, but sooner or later you get there. (Or you crash. Fingers crossed.)
Deborah said on January 11, 2009 at 7:18 pm
Where I work we have big debates about using glassware and washing vs using paper cups and disposing, for our water consumption during the day. Which way uses less energy? May seem petty, but hey, we’re talking about it rather than being oblivious about the issues. Personally I think paper cups that you keep using over and over is the best way, but some people think it’s gross to use the same paper cup over again. Why?
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 11, 2009 at 7:21 pm
I’ve been carrying around a coffee mug since 1983, and figure i’ve saved a dozen acres of styro-trees in the Amazonian rain forest by that act alone. People do keep asking me when i’m going to wash it. Which is every month — i figure if i don’t use sugar or cream, no problem, right?
basset said on January 11, 2009 at 7:26 pm
Used to work with someone who never washed his cup – I mean never. Had a brown crust inside and on the top edge.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 11, 2009 at 8:07 pm
OK, that’s gross. (Unless you call it seasoning, in which case it’s a gourmet sensibility.)
Rana said on January 11, 2009 at 8:51 pm
There’s a reason why my tea cups tend to be dark brown… (I do wash them every month or so, but I figure I’m pouring boiling water into them each time, and I’m the only person who uses them, so it can’t be that unhealthy.)
I hope my comments didn’t imply that I think efforts to “go green” are a waste of time. I don’t – I just believe, like Nancy, that simplistic solutions are inadequate to the real complexity of the problems. I’m still somewhat doubtful about Obama and his policies, but one thing that I did appreciate was his reaction to Brian William’s inane question about what Obama was doing himself as far as “going green” is concerned:
(From the Newsweek article)
So when Brian Williams is asking me about what’s a personal thing that you’ve done [that’s green], and I say, you know, ‘Well, I planted a bunch of trees.’ And he says, ‘I’m talking about personal.’ What I’m thinking in my head is, ‘Well, the truth is, Brian, we can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of something collective’.”
It’s refreshing to see a public figure grasping that we’re dealing with complicated systems here – ones that have been developing for at least 50 years at this point (and which may go back a century or two).
moe99 said on January 11, 2009 at 8:51 pm
must not gloat about the selection of Rev Watkins for the National Prayer Service on Jan. 21
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 11, 2009 at 8:54 pm
Oh, but you should gloat! Nothing wrong there . . . coveting, that’s another problem, but a little friendly gloating is no problemo. I like her, and she’s gonna do a great job — i may think Sarah Palin is more sinned against than sinning, but i’m confident of Sharon’s ability to build consensus and grow community.
I’ll be watching on the 21st!
whitebeard said on January 12, 2009 at 1:55 am
Cleaning up a hundred smokestacks is much more effcient than cleaning up millions of tailpipes as far as electric cars are concerned; diverting water through a hundred hydroelectric turbines is even more efficient.
It requires a concentrated effort, not this assinine idea of carbon credits or the even more foolish scam that deregulation lowers the price of electricity.
I rant, therefore I am.
Catherine said on January 12, 2009 at 8:33 pm
I have the same pet peeve. Why is an all-electrical car necessarily better than a hybrid? That electricity has to come from somewhere, so we just effectively outsourced our pollution to a coal plant somewhere… ELSE. Yes, the exhaust can be scrubbed better at the big plant than in my car’s exhaust system, but it’s still polluting and it’s still using fuel. And that fuel has to be converted into electricty and sent long distances, which means lost efficiency vs. my car’s gas engine. It comes down to, there’s no free lunch, and somehow it’s often the annoying NIMBYs who seem to feel that if there’s no pollution HERE, then it’s all good.