Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What are people saying (Part 1)

One of my guilty pleasures on the internet is a car enthusiast forum where I learn about all kinds of cars I can't afford and read arguments between other people who can't afford them about which one is better. It's very entertaining and a little bit addictive. Sometimes I get so riled up, I have to participate!

The best part about the site for me is the discussions that pop up about alternative fuels and CAFE standards and SUVs and so on. There are some bright people with great ideas, there are some bright people who have lost their mind, there are a lot of people who are uninformed, and there are a lot of people (the majority probably) who are just unaffected by it but participate in the discussion. I find it interesting to gauge the general opinion about technologies and innovations that pertain to my industry of interest and passion.

Anyways, I thought I would share a few of the posts in one such thread that started with the first post below. Just as a disclaimer, these are other people's words that I may or may not agree with but simply found interesting. If you are reading these words and wish to claim them, let me know and I will append your name or screen name to them. Otherwise, they remain anonymous.

"People keep talking about how if they jack up the price of gas high enough that Americans will sell their SUVs and everything will be fine. So does that mean that paying $8 gal for gas and getting 40 mpg is somehow better than paying $4 gal for gas and getting 20 mpg? If we use half the gas but pay twice as much for it then we still give the Arabs the same amount of our money. How does that help us or hurt them? I thought the biggest problem is that we are financing the very people who want to wipe us off the face of the Earth?"

I found this post very interesting because it seems foreign to me that you would equate MPG standards with profit in the Arab world. Of course I see the connection but it has always been my assumption that the PROFIT of the oil-holding countries was not the problem. What they do with that profit, our reliance on a foreign resource, and the uncertainty of that area in general are the problems, internationally speaking.
"In general, if prices soar use will drop a little. Smaller more efficient engines simply means less overall fuel used. The real answer is more trains, and public transportation....but people hate that idea. Because of our fascination with automobiles, public transportation is only for a few major cities, and everywhere else it’s simply the transportation method of ROGUES AND BANDITS!"

Hrmmmm... sounds familiar.
"The solution to the oil crisis is simple. Eliminate modern pharmaceuticals and nitrogen fixing."

Never heard that before, actually. Nitrogen fixing, BTW, is how we take nitrogen gas and turn it into ammonium for fertilizer and other stuff. The extent of the use of this process is SHOCKING ("1% of the world's annual energy supply is consumed in the Haber process" -Wiki).
I am of the opinion that even if every American ditched their gas guzzler tomorrow and started driving 40+mpg people movers the price of gas wouldn't move one cent since China and India would happily buy up every drop we don't use (as they do now). "We" don't have the biggest sway in the UAE anymore folks. Now that doesn't mean we should all just give up and drive Tahoes either. Do what's right for you. Don't like the price, change your habits and/or accept it as the cost of living where you live and driving what you drive.

Is doing what is right for you and you alone the way to do things? That's an honest question. Is there any other way to do things besides that? Is it realistic to expect people to live for other people?
"Stable cheap gas prices lulled the population into a false sense that there is absolutely no need to be concerned with energy conservation…Cheap stable gas prices fueled the SUV trend of the 90s. If gas had been 3 to 4 bucks a gallon instead of $1.25 a gallon in the 90s, then we would already have many of those great smaller European vehicles in the US market, including diesels. But the cheap stable gas prices allowed everybody to buy into a very impractical vehicle trend, while also fueling uncontrolled urban sprawl. People saw no need to live close to their work places since gas was cheap. The auto manufacturers just responded to the market demands, and spent more money on designing SUVS than more practical cars. When gas prices finally shot up (arguably where they should already have been based on inflation), we had a large percentage of the population that had made impractical life choices that forced long commutes in vehicles that got poor fuel economy, and those people all shouted "this is unfair", even after several individual energy crisis in the past few decades foreshadowed this happening again and again unless we change out habits. This further proves that unless the price situation forces people to think about conservation, then they just won't. And that is very a strong argument for CAFE."

A very well-thought and important thing to say, IMHO. Also important is the bolded part; automakers simply respond to the limitations applied to them and the demands asked of them. All they do is try to make the most money possible, nothing less nothing more. Even the most altruistic and earth-loving brands only do so because it serves their company.

They are morally neutral, that's the problem.

"I am happily getting what the efficiency Nazi's would call "BAD" gas mileage. I truly hope that we do not go into another underpowered car making fad (see 70's & 80's?). I am a car enthusiast, you cannot tell that from the vehicles I say I own, but if it were feasible for me right now I would be driving a gas wasting speed machine. And lets not make this an us vs. them (middle east) battle. We are in a world of capitalism (capitalism=good), where if I wan't it I will pay the lowest price for it whatever that is, or find another governmental legitimate way of attaining it at a rate I like. This is all my opinion, I am not saying any of you are wrong, but fell free to debate my crazy notions"

And my response on the board:
"Your notions aren't crazy, they're old and stale and boring. You are equating wanton, needless waste with capitalism which isn't necessary (i.e. capitalism does not HAVE to beget waste). It's your "wan't" that is the problem. It's the choices people are making to follow this want and the want itself. What if you're married with kids and want to get with the babysitter? What if you want to punch that guy in the face for whatever reason? What if you want something and can't afford it? What are you going to do to get that want? Capitalism does not make all of your dreams come true (you even said so yourself: "I am a car enthusiast, you cannot tell that from the vehicles I say I own").

I understand that, culturally, you've been talked into wanting BIGMORELOUDFAST but we will reach a point soon where you simply can't have it. Instead of choosing not to, you won't have a choice because it is not feasible. And, eventually, that component will fall out of our culture.

There are many examples... the best one, IMHO, is slave labor. It makes our lives easier, it makes businesses more productive, and it gives the "chosen few" more time to enjoy themselves and bond with their family. But, well, it's horrible and now its not a choice. So we're losing all this "choice" and "productivity" "just" so a race of people can be free. How do you feel about that trade off? Would you trade your right to have an E55 AMG to improve air quality and international relations?

I'm not equating SUV drivers with slave owners at all, I'm equating two practices, one which is antiquated (in our country) and one which will be eventually."

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