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!