Things to read...

If time is short, I'd suggest reading at LEAST The Prologue and Legend of The Pinto Bean Posts!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A recurrent theme...

Good day everybody! Currently I'm in a tiny town called Sebastopol, CA. I've made my way out of the towering Redwoods and down some of the twistiest roads I've ever seen. I must say these rival US129 aka The Dragon down south of Knoxville, and they just go for miles! I took HWY 101 to HWY1 which follows the pacific coast down California. The turns are hard in the SportsBean, but i'm making my way through them well. RTD isn't to happy about my choice of route, and spends much of his time attempting to avoid stuff that isn't tied down from bouncing off him as I squeal the bean through yet another 180 degree turn. When I'm on the coast side of the ridge, the weather is a balmy 65 degrees, and then on the valley side it's about 110 and I start having Kandahar flashbacks. While the road is particularly twisty, the earth is usually some shade of parched brown, but the ocean stretching out toi the right makes it all worth it! Also I managed to find the tree with a tunnel cut through it, and the Bean even fit! By fit I mean the mirrors were folded in and the CB antenna down but whatever. I have to wonder HOW there came to be a tunnel through the tree. I suspect it involved a fair amount of alcohol, at least at the start! This seems like the kind of thing that results from a conversation that included "you know what would be totally amazing? A tunnel.... THROUGH a TREE! Pass me another beer and I'll go get the chainsaw!"

Anyhow, something that has come up quite a bit from people has been the issue of gas prices, and the remedies that people have heard of. Global warming has reared its' head a bit, too. I reference it a bit in jest, because last year was the coldest year ever recorded globally, which seems kind of interesting given this whole "warming" scam. I hate to turn this into a rant, so I'll try to keep it entertaining at the least. We all have noticed that the prices at the pump have been going up, and if ya haven't that probably means you are a politician and have a driver who fills your car up for you. Everyone seems to have some very misguided ideas at what the answer is, and I'm amazed at how little people know about an issue seem so passionate about.

First off, ethanol. Seriously? How in the world have we sold ourselves this BRILLIANT idea? "I know! Let's take our FOOD, and turn it into GAS!" By the way, this is a fuel that is significantly less efficient than petroleum, so as a side benefit of higher food prices, you also get to enjoy lower mpg and power in your car. In the end, to save a few cents per gallon of gas, you get to pay several cents more for all of your food, AND get worse mpg, meaning you buy MORE gas! This is like giving someone $1000 dollars and then they give you $800 cash back, and you get excited at your "windfall". Now some people might argue that it's only corn that has gone up, but again that's not true. Given the increased demand for corn, farmers have stopped planting other crops to meet the demand, so now wheat, barley (BEER!) and other cash crops have fallen to the wayside in lieu of the new Corngod. Personally I think this is a bad idea. Kinda like much of the stuff that I do... Again many people point to Brazil and their cheap fuel, but what people don't realize is ethanol is a byproduct of their sugar industry, so it's a win win situation there. Not here.

That being said, electricity MUST be the answer! We can get Enron involved in this idea, too... While electric cars SOUND great, we need to think about a few things. First off this doesn't get us OFF of fossil fuel, it merely removes it to a place you don't see to make the energy for your eco-car. Your friendly power plant! So picture this, and electric car in every other driveway, and the power plants attempting to meet the need of the increased demand for electricity. There was another industry that had a sudden increase in demand... It was the petroleum industry... So now you get to pay more for power for your car, and your air conditioner, and your TV, and computer, etc etc etc. Also, many cities can barely meet demand for power just for houses. Now add to that the demand for cars, too. Coal burning power plants are gonna go into overdrive to make that power. I say coal because the majority of the power in the USA still comes from coal. Last I checked that stuff has some nasty emmissions...

Now that you have you electric car, you have a big battery, which will die every 6-10 years with current technology. So what to do with the HIGHLY TOXIC and LARGE lithium battery? Can't put it anywhere it will get wet, because then it will react violently and go boom. Can't put it in a landfill because it will eventially leak, causing a HUGE disaster to the local environment. What about nickel? That's great, except for it too is toxic in concentrated amounts, plus it currently is mined in the North Americas, shipped to Japan (via fuel burning boats) turned into a battery and shipped back (more gas!). So with current battery technology, this MIGHT just be a bad idea...

So then what? Hydrogen, right? Yayyyyy.... Has anyone here heard of "The Hindenburg"? Granted the hydrogen cells will be well built, but eventually one WILL rupture in a bad enough crash, and then the it might spark off, since crashed often involve sparks. I can barely wait to see the lawsuits that roll into the courts when THAT happens. Pluse, where do we get the hydrogen? From water right? But how, Daniel? Well you get it by shooting a busload of electricity through it, resulting in electolysis and H gas and O gas. Where does the electricty come from? The friendly little cave dwelling electricity gnomes? Nope.... back to the power plant. So I think driving a hydrogen car might be a bit of a gamble at best.

So what is the answer? Well there are engines in Europe that get 47-53 MPG, AND make good useable power. They are called "common rail diesel engines" and already in widespread use there. Why not here? The EPA won't allow them because the sulfonated fuel doesn't meet out emissions standards. Nevermind the fact that they are highly efficient, and emit way less emissions at highway speeds, we can't have that sulfur can we. Or can we? We have to ask ourselves what tradeoff are we willing to make. Do we protect the ultra rare blue ringed snotty tree slug while millions of Americans lose their houses, families, jobs, and lives because they can't afford to eat or buy gas? Or do we find a LONG TERM solution to the problem? I vote long term. As for electricity, I think that wind and solar may be good solutions. I know South Dakota had constant 20-30 mph winds all day, and a LOT of unused space that would be great for windmills! However, given current battery technology, THAT isn't yet the answer. The only other suggestion I have is possibly a car that is like a train engine. A diesel that is highly efficient which drives a small generator to power the elctric motors in the car, and only runs on demand. Not sure how well this would work, but it beats having everything die off from the lithium leached into the soil from the battery it replaced.
Anyhow, I hope to be in Vegas tomorrow and Monday, then on through the Southwest. Expects somre pivcs of me keeping RTD from walking over the edge of the Grand Canyon... I hope to get to meet some people in Vegas, so e-mail if you are interested! Maybe another meet and greet a la Portland, Oregon. Enjoy the pictures of the Pacific Sunset I've posted!


andrea said...

This is the part of your trip I'm most jealous of. I love the Pacific coast and watching the sunset over the ocean. Your photos are spectacular.

Good for you for speaking up about this global warming crap propagated by Al Gore's brainwashing! His tidy little film very effectively did it's job of scaring the bejesus out of people - reminiscent of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds.

You do realize you've opened up a huge can of worms. Oh course you do.

Let the debate and the blasting begin!

Anonymous said...

Oh, no, not that gosh-darn global warming. Don't you just wish Al Gore would have shut his mouth? I mean, that is AFTER he invented the internet for us all.

Better brains than mine (supposedly) are going to have to come up with some kind of solution. Is drilling off the coast the answer? I don't know, but I agree with Daniel that if we protect everything at our own expense, that's obviously not working either.
We've got to do something, bec. not everyone has public transportation to get to work and the grocery. And if you don't work -- then there starts the downward spiral.


Rocky's tummy all better today?

Mattexian said...

I've ranted a time or two about the lack of decent fuel-efficient cars here, pointing to the Hecho en Mexico classic VW Beetles, that get about 35 mpg (it was a rough calculation, based on the km/L new car sticker still on one). As you point out with the Euro-Diesels, they can't be imported here b/c of a lack of emission controls, nevermind that by my reckoning, they'd make up for it by getting better mileage than most cars on the road now, with a lower per-mile average of "bad emissions."

Anonymous said...

Forgot to say thank you for the tunnel tree picture -- that is too cool. If there's a closer one, that would be great on the calendar.


Anonymous said...

While Hydrogen is explosive, the Hindenburg disaster had a lot to do with the fact that the skin of the airship was actually covered in what was basically rocket fuel. The discovery channel had about a two hour special on it, and the Mytbusters actually recreated it with a small model.
Hope the Bean is ok.

Miss Em said...


Well we have done the methenol-now we are being told it's going to be food or fuel. Lucky us! Personnally I didn't want the junk fuel to begin with.

Solar powered isn't quite here with the technology.

Hydrogen--I do NOT think going KARBOOM is a good idea either.

Pedal Power altho the best non-polluting form of travel is not going to happen today espicially with me or my job.

Wind--Put a pollitician in front of the sail and maybe we would get somewhere.

Just a few of my surface thoughts and deeper and I will have to open the Closet Door marked 'Bad Thoughts'

Loved the Pic's.

Samantha said...

You're a really good photographer. I'd like to know what kind of camera you're using, because if these are from a point and shoot, I'd love to see what you could do with a professional SLR and some good lenses.

You're also a great writer; I laugh my ass off at most of your posts. I completely agree with you on the global warming scheme and your analysis of our "alternatives" was pretty much spot on. Keep up the good work!