america needs an intervention

An excerpt from a Boing Boing post on plug-in hybrids:

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change says that if all the cars in the US were 60 mpg hybrids, “we would save more oil than we now import from the Middle East.” And if we started using “plug-in hybrids,” which could deliver 100 mpg or even more if you used them in cities, “there would be incalculable savings from the reduction in pollution and the ending of the nation’s dependence on foreign oil,” as well as improved national security. That last benefit alone is enough to make it worthwhile for the government to give incentives to the auto companies to work on the problem, says former CIA director James Woolsey.

Even so, automakers would be reluctant to make plug-in hybrids, because the price of oil is still relatively low and people don’t want to give up their gas guzzling SUVs…

And that, my friends, is the sound of a once great nation slashing its own throat.

While we’re on the subject of energy policy, I had an idea this afternoon that I wanted to share… Here it is… Whoever it is that runs as the Democratic candidate for President in the next election should announce early in the campaign that, if elected, he or she will appoint Al Gore as head of a new renewable energy initiative, not unlike the Manhattan Project, and that the unlimited resources of the nation will be at his disposal. That’s one of the few things that I can imagine that might make me feel optimistic about our country, and its chances for survival, once again. (Another thing that would make me happy is if someone in American politics would have the balls to aggressively fight for a gas tax, with the revenues generated going toward funding alternative/renewable energy research.)

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  1. Jack
    Posted April 6, 2006 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    We’re getting between 45 and 52 MPG on the Prius right now, depending on how we drive it. The strange thing is that I get this Dr. Jeykel and Mr. Hyde feeling when the gas prices go up. Part of me goes “Oh crap…I can’t afford this now” and the other part of me goes “I drive a hybrid, suckas…and you just spent a weeks paycheck on filling up your Chevy Tahoe!”

    Seriously without realistic public transportation, the high price of gas hurts the lower classes even worse than the rest of the population. Unfortunately the infrastructure in most of the country doesn’t lend itself to walking, much less, a centralized public transportation system, because it was built after the introduction of cheap oil and combustion engines.

    I think I’ll ride my bike to work tommorow.

  2. Teddy Glass Esq.
    Posted April 6, 2006 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s a different argument. We should have better public transportation, AND gas prices should rise to the point where they actually reflect all of the societal costs associated.

  3. ChelseaL
    Posted April 7, 2006 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    We also need to make the hybrids affordable and more attractive to the consumer. When I was car shopping, gas-mileage was my number-one priority. I couldn’t find a hybrid I could afford. Nor could I find a hybrid coupe.

    But I like your Al Gore idea a lot.

  4. grr
    Posted April 7, 2006 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I like the “Manhattan Project” idea – I believe I read something similar in Wired calling for the same thing. If only we took the money for Iraq and put it to real use. Who should be appointed is arguable (I don’t know), but something like this should be done.

    Plug-in Hybrids: First, a rant: The domestic makers tried the plug-in car idea. Everyone hated it and projects were scrapped (Ford tried multiple times with no luck). Before we start getting on Detroit again, let’s not forget they’ve done plenty in this area too. (Yes, I have a vested interest in Detroit.) Ok, rant over.

    Batteries only give you so much range, and that is the biggest problem with that concept. (Battery technology is not moving forward at the same pace as other things unfortunately) Adding a hybrid engine may help, but you still need to consider that most of the energy produced in the US comes from coal. You’re moving the pollution to other sources. Don’t forget that batteries aren’t environmentally-friendly either. Put differently, the entire environmental cost of a hybrid needs to be considered, not just how much MPG it gets. I know there’s been a recent study on this, but I haven’t investigated how biased it may be.

    For Hybrids, I don’t think they’ll ever be cheaper than a convential gasoline/diesel engine, simply because you essentially have two engines in place of one. You can produce a vehicle without the hybrid pieces and sell it cheaper. As Hybrid technology improves the cost difference may make this a moot point though.

    Personally, I’d like to see more of the direct-injection diesels come to the US. Supposedly great mileage and a lot of low-end torque.

  5. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted April 7, 2006 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    The Apollo Alliance, which has been discussed here in the past, I believe, is positioning itself like an alternative energy Manhattan Project, but I believe that it’s doing it on the cheap, with limited government participation. What’s needed is a clear, decisive mandate from the federal government, and the resources that come along with it. Gore would be a good choice to run it.

  6. nownotnever
    Posted April 9, 2006 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    I kinda came late to this thread, but just wish we could get a renewable/alternative energy source that would be economically attractive and esthetically atractive enough to overcome the nimby mentality. We can’t seem to get windfarms and nuclear plants built because no one wants to live near one. Solar cells are expensive to install and ugly. Hydrogen, as Ahnold is finding in CA, is scary stuff and tskes energy to produce. They tell me that most ethanol takes more energy to produce than it replaces. Maybe the nanotech industry will come up with breakthroughs, but for now, we seem to be stuck with fossil fuels in an interdependent world. We just need to keep on investing in R&D and finding new sources of the same old same old.

  7. mark
    Posted April 9, 2006 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    I’m reading “The Long Emergency” right now, so I’m a bit pessimistic. Kunstler, if you haven’t read the book, doesn’t think that we have a chance in hell of finding an alternative energy source in the short term to replace oil. I’d like to think that he’s wrong, but I suspect that he isn’t

  8. MustHaveCoffee
    Posted April 9, 2006 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read “The Long Emergency” yet…it’s on my list to pick up though. Whereas I’m not generally cynical, I don’t see how it’s possible to find a viable alternative energy source anytime soon. However, I, like everyone else, am hopeful that we will see it in due time. Until then, we will have to find our own personal solutions. As for me, I was almost to the point of buying a hybrid, but instead I moved closer to work. I reduced my commute from 32 miles to 1.5. I have found that this solution saved me not only money, but now I only spend 5 minutes getting to/from work instead of an hour.

  9. mark
    Posted April 9, 2006 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    I don

  10. wetpuppy
    Posted April 10, 2006 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    Jack – You’re right, higher taxes on gas just screws the ones that can least afford it, me!

    grr – You’re right, too. Batteries have a big downside and you forgot to mention what you do with them when they eventually have to be replaced. The entire environmental picture, as you say, MUST be studied closely.

    As much as I hate to admit it our best policy might be to keep forcing as much efficiency out of oil and other current sources as possible.

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