April 22nd, 2007

Happy Earth Day from Oil Corp Inc.

Posted by natdavauer in Uncategorized

The telephone I had growing up had the big dial on it. It came in one non-customizable color (beige) and only had one ring tone. Our computer was even worse… wait… what computer? Technological advances in the last 25 years have been incredible. So what the hell is the problem with gas mileage?

The current manifestation of any given technology hardly resembles it’s not-so-distant relative. And this is just for things we all see day to day. The advances of things like weapons, satellites and home coffee brewing machines are beyond our wildest dreams. Gas mileage, you would think, being nothing more than another automobile technology, would have advanced right along side it’s more stylish peers like in-car entertainment, climate control, fuel injection and brakes. Our cars glow in their nethers and even hubcaps are moving in a whole separate plane now. The only technology besides gas mileage that seems to be left behind is cup holders. They really are never in the right spot.

Let’s compare Honda Civic you would have drove off the lot in 1973 and one you would drive home today.

1973 Civic:

Not much in terms of amenities actually, and probably not too comfortable either. Radio sucked I’m sure. Heat? Maybe. But it got 40+ MPG!

2007 Civic:

(Straight from Honda’s website) With cutting-edge looks and the latest Honda technology, the Civic will get you there with style. A two-tiered instrument panel and available XM Satellite Radio with Navigation System make driving a true pleasure. And its i-VETC 16 valve, 1.8 liter engine with Drive-by-Wire throttle system will make sure you arrive early.

So they’ve been pretty busy in the last 34 years. Got a whole other tier on the ‘ol instrument panel. Thank God. I don’t even know what a Drive-by-Wire Throttle system is, but I’m sure it’s complicated. Sounds like a bonafide space ship that would make George Jetson proud compared to the ’73. What does it get for mileage though? Oh, 35 overall miles per gallon.

MPGIs there any, and I mean any technology that has gone backwards in the last 34 years? I’m not talking retro, I’m talking just plain worse. Now, maybe the car is safer and handles better and is more powerful and all of these things require going backwards in fuel efficiency, but I don’t think so, because you see, everyone including Honda is trying so hard to make vehicles that have even better mileage than a ‘73 Civic. They are working on it. They are working hard. They are figuring out the problem.

They’ve created a car that has two different power sources and can switch between them and use one to charge the other and has a digital display that shows you live what’s happening inside your technological wonder car. Wow, that sounds even more amazing than a two-tiered instrument panel. So, 34 years later they have used all the amazing advances in technology and applied them to the fuel economy of a car. What did they get with the 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid? 48 MPG. That’s about seven, possibly eight miles better than the ’73.

Cars can see you coming and unlock after “sensing” your digital fingerprint, hot-sync to your phone as you get in the car, automatically adjust your seat, dictate directions on how to get to the McDonalds drive through, shift automatically while pretending to let you shift, entertain everyone in the car with as many DVD players/Xboxs, break for you if you aren’t paying attention, beep at you if you didn’t check your blind spot and parallel park for you because you obviously know how to spend money better than you know how to drive, but they can barely get you better mileage than a car that was basically a cardboard box strapped on to a motorcycle. What has really been the focus for the last three decades?

It’s sad to ask that question because I know the answer. The focus is on useless junk that makes us feel important. This can be seen by looking at the home page for the new Civic. Even today when gas prices are a “big deal,” there is no mention of the car’s economy on the main page, but at the very top, in bold are the words: “Ready for a little attention?” Attention to the world and it’s environmental issues? Attention to our country and it’s political issues? Oh, attention to yourself and your instrument panels. Yeah, that. Nice.

I joke but it’s not even that funny. All of these cars need oil to run. Even the amazing hybrids need just about as much oil as my wife’s 16 year old Honda (clocking in at 40 MPG regularly.) This oil has to come from somewhere because you don’t have it, and I know I don’t have it. Maybe you don’t care about polar bears and wildlife refuges, but would you destroy an ecosystem if you didn’t even have to? Maybe you’re afraid of terrorists and want the troops to get ‘em before they get you, but would you even consider having someone die for your oil if there was even a remote chance that’s what is really happening?

What if things could be better but someone isn’t letting them get better. Here’s a page out of our recent gasoline history:

A year after the National Academy of Sciences reported that leaded gasoline is the largest single source of atmospheric lead, the Reagan Administration’s Task Force on Regulatory Relief (chaired by Vice President George H. W. Bush) proposed abandoning the planned phase-out of leaded gas.

But then, the EPA Administrator Ann Gorsuch admitted to a gas refiner that the agency would not enforce lead limits. The resulting bad publicity prompted the Bush Task Force to abandon its proposal, causing an unplanned speedup of the phase-out.

Exposure to lead negatively affects children’s cognitive development and behavioral skills. Between 1976 and 1980, as the amount of lead in gasoline dropped 50 percent, blood-lead levels in children dropped 37 percent. The decline continued. (http://zfacts.com/p/35.html)

So, not too long ago the gas we were burning was not just poisoning the world but actually poisoning children’s minds and the Vice President of those children’s country didn’t want to stop it. Why not? What’s in it for him to poison children? Oh yeah, truckloads of money. He was an oil company millionaire when he opposed the lead gas phase out.

There are powerful people that stand in the way of technology doing what it does best, namely: get better and better. Powerful people that are willing to do what they do best at any cost, namely: make money. Luckily, there are alternative ways to “get attention” in your car while still paying attention to what actually needs attention. We need to expect as much advancement out of fuel economy that we expect out of each successive generation of iPod. Fifty-something miles per gallon is not alternative living. Getting a car that has more to do with what’s outside rather than inside is alternative living.

In part two of this post, I will bring you one such alternative. You are what you eat and now you can drive what you eat. (No, Marty McFly, it is not Mr. Fusion. But you can still wear the raincoat and sunglasses.)