Speed and Efficiency (OR Two Birds)

September 9, 2008

I’m late to the party, I know, but I wanted to add another perspective on the whole speed limit thing.

Dave’s Kansas argument is certainly compelling, but all it really means is that Ezra’s limit is too low. Of course, once we start talking about limits in the 90 to 100 mph range then we’re not really making much of a difference.

To me, though, we’re coming at this from the wrong direction. For decades, car manufacturers (particularly those in the US) have taken advantage of low mileage requirements to build bigger, faster cars. Along the way they encouraged an arms race of sorts where the only spec of value is horsepower, which is really about going fast.

If, by some miracle, we establish efficiency standards (or a carbon tax), creating an environment where more value rests in efficiency than top speed or rediculous acceleration, then we also create an environment where cars don’t go as fast. This isn’t to say, or course, that cars should no longer be fun to drive, or go the speeds necessary to pass that truck going downhill. Just that the focus needs to shift from speed to efficiency.

Some cars already represent this shift (the Prius or my beloved TDI), but even they don’t necessarily go far enough, and certainly aren’t common enough. And then, there are the American companies (in this case, Ford) that produce what would be one of the most efficient cars in the country, and choose not to sell it here. I can only imagine it’s because it might tarnish the image of “Ford Tough”.

Bottom line, it’s time to alter the qualities we value in cars, and we need our government to lead the way, since our “free market” companies refuse to actually make the changes the market is beginning to demand.

Lack of foresight (OR Why change? Oil is cheap)

July 6, 2008

Lisa at Cogitamus links to this article from the NY Times, saying:

I wish I knew which bits of this article to excerpt here, but I just don’t.  The whole thing is worth excerpting.

And, it’s true… still, one sentence caught my eye:

They [American auto makers] are suffering the consequences [of opposing higher efficiency standards] and could go broke just like the airlines.

What a novel thought…  that the free market the Republicans claim to love will lead to the extinction of American car manufacturers, where a government regulation which would have forced them to evolve to compete with foreign manufacturers could have saved them.

Even now, I chuckle at the adds for American cars that tout 30 mpg highway, as though no one else can compete with that. Seriously, that might dwarf the 8 mpg Hummer, but we can do better than that, can’t we?

Frustratingly, there is also this bit:

In Europe, on the other hand, fuel efficiency currently stands at 44 m.p.g. and is slated to hit 48 m.p.g. by 2012.

Why can’t we get those more efficient cars here? If I had to replace my current car right now, and wanted to get something more efficient, I would have approximately zero options, and my car is almost 9 years old!

Circuitous (OR Through the back door?)

July 2, 2008

Matt discusses the merits of regulating horsepower in an effort to improve efficiency, which was presented by David Sandalow:

Regulation, he plausibly argues, could get us out of a horsepower arms race in a way that would have little negative impact on anyone’s life while allowing us to capture technological gains in engine efficiency in terms of reduced fuel consumption rather than in terms of faster cars that let you get to the traffic jam more quickly.

I appreciate the logic here…  and I must say my 90 horsepower car gets me around just fine, but if our objective is to improve efficiency and our tool is regulation, wouldn’t it just make more sense to regulate efficiency?

Absent (OR Limited creativity)

June 12, 2008

Attentive readers will have noticed my absence the last couple days. Interestingly, in that time Dave has complimented me twice, which either means he appreciates my silence or is up to something nefarious.

Anyway- for the last few days at work I’ve been playing with a wiki-based Intranet product that we just acquired. So, I have been doing some very blog-like work all day, haven’t had much inclination to blog at home. But, I’m sure you don’t care.

Right now, though, I’m riding the bus home, and testing WordPress’ mobile site. If you see anything odd in this post, like stray HTML code, that’s why.

This mobile blogging thing doesn’t really allow me to reference and quote stuff, so allow me to ramble for a little bit (more).

Some thoughts as we complete the first week of “real” general election campaigning:

– Much more is being said about Sen. McCain than Sen. Obama; now that there isn’t wall to wall Demorcratic primary coverage to distract from Sen. McCain’s candidacy, people are looking at McCain, the candidate, and (not surprisingly) not liking what they’re seeing.

– Along those lines, I just don’t see how Sen. McCain can pick up any votes. Those who aren’t offended, dismayed, or disaffected by him and his policies are already in his camp. For anyone else, the more you learn, the less you’ll like (like that how long we stay in Iraq isn’t “too important”).

– I imagine Sen. Obama is enjoyinh being out of the media spotlight for a bit. He’s still campaigning, of course, but he’s been staying out of all the messes that Sen. McCain is making for himself.

Now, onto other random thoughts:
– An absolute horde of used cars appeared on the Pepsi Center’s parking lot over the weekend. I guess it’s some giant used car sale. It’s amusing that half the lot is trucks or SUVs, and most of the rest are mid-size+ sedans. There’s only one row of compact looking cars.

– Which brings me to fuel prices. Marketplace ran a story yesterday about Congress inquiring about alternatively fueled vehicles. Somewhere along the line, someone mentioned that we have a huge fleet of automobiles, and transitioning to more efficient vehicles will take a long time. He didn’t mention what kind of impact improved effiency standards might have had, had we not dicked around for 30 years with the “bigger is better” theory to car sales.

– And lastly, Dave and I are going to try the to liveblog Game 4 of the NBA Finals tonight. Not sure how it’ll work, or come out, but hey- this is our blog, and we will do with it what we want. :)