The Unbearable Green-ness of Being

22 06 2008

Lo, these many moons ago, the big buzzword was “mega“. This was followed by “turbo” and “laser” and a whole host of others. Now we have a new buzzword: “green“.

You can tell when a buzzword has officially arrived when everyone and his Madison Avenue Marketroid is flogging their product and/or service with the word. And so it is today. Everything is green these days- even when it ain’t.

I have no problem with people wanting to buy cars which get better fuel economy. So long as the pursuit of fuel efficiency does not sacrifice things like safety or functionality, this is simply a logical reaction to the rising cost of fuel. That said, I am continually bemused by the fact that many of these so-called “green” vehicles don’t actually get very good mileage.

Because of various and sundry physical infirmities, I drive a Buick. It’s a large behemoth with all the bells and whistles, and yet I get 23 MPG in town and 33 MPG on the highway. Please compare these figures with the latest so-called “green” vehicles being flogged by the various auto makers. I’ll wait.

A casual perusal of ads on TV reveals a lot of vehicles being declared “green” with advertised fuel efficiency far worse than my 4 year old Buick. Furthermore, many of these “green” vehicles are tiny little plastic boxes which tend to fare poorly in collisions due to the Law of Gross Tonnage- unlike my car, which gets very good ratings from the Insurance Institute.

I am also continually disgusted by the average environmentalist’s complete ignorance of engineering. Those little econoboxes which are the darlings of the environmental movement for their fuel economy are generally less safe than larger vehicles and are manufactured with large quantities of plastic. For those of you who might now be foaming at the mouth in outrage at my words, plastic is made from petroleum. Those little green cars aren’t all that green after all.

I think electric cars are kinda neat. It’s really cool to watch someone get into a car and drive away with only a slight buzz from the motor and the crunch of their tires on pavement. That said, I won’t be buying one anytime soon. I’m an engineer, and I know that the batteries in those vehicles will need to be replaced one day, and the cost of battery replacement will probably exceed the cost of buying a new vehicle. They may be fuel efficient, but are not cost-efficient in the long run.

Here’s what it will take to get a lot more electric vehicles on the roads:

1- They will have to be less expensive than the equivalent gas guzzler- both long and short term.

2- They will need to be capable of recharging quickly and cheaply.

3- They will need to be capable of maintaining highway speeds for more than 200 miles without needing a recharge.

Battery technology is currently not capable of delivering these requirements. Batteries will need to become lighter, less toxic, and cheap.

This constant push by environmentalists to “go green” has a tendency to backfire. Preaching at Americans isn’t very effective- especially when it would cost them money. If you want to get Americans to change, don’t appeal to their love of nature. Don’t try to frighten them into believing the End of the World is Nigh! The best way to get a response from Americans is to appeal to their self-interest.

There are a lot of ways the average person in this country can be more environmentally friendly that do not involve dramatic changes in lifestyle or adherence to unproven science. Keep your car in good repair. Keep your tires properly inflated. Car-pool when possible. Plan your driving to reduce travel time and redundant trips. Buy an electronic thermostat for your home to reduce energy consumption. Once Americans figure out how to get more out of their paycheck, the changes start happening.

The current frenzy of “green” advertising has convinced me that the Environmental Extremists have lost. Once the Marketroids get their hands on a concept, it will quickly and permanently be warped and twisted until every last penny has been wrung from it, after which the concept will be discarded. The religion of Environmentalism will start to fragment into orthodox and reform camps- each of which will be more interested in destroying the other than in the core tenets of their religion.

Maybe then we can start listening to some sane people about the environment. Someone like Bjorn Lomborg. I have to admit that my primary reason for liking Mr. Lomborg is the fact that Environmentalists start screeching and foaming at the mouth whenever his name is mentioned. Then I read some of his work and listened to him talk. I think he makes a lot of sense.

But what do I know? I’m just an engineer.

Current status: Not “Green”

Current music: Asshole Song by Dennis Leary

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9 responses

23 06 2008
LZ

I think I’m going to go for tan from now on. I’m sick of green.

23 06 2008
archvillain

LZ- I’ve always been partial to grey.

I am become Grey. I stand between the darkness and the light; between the candle and the star.

24 06 2008
Patrick

What are you – baiting people now? Lomborg? Geez. That’s kinda like saying, “Donald Rumsfeld makes a whole lotta sense on foreign policy.” I mean, you’re sure to get some reaction, but…

I agree with your points on advertising, ‘branding’, et al. You make some damned good points about what it’ll take to get people moving as well. It’s funny how people are always excited to “make a difference”, but only if they don’t have to lift a finger. If you haven’t checked it out already, I suggest watching “Who Killed The Electric Car?” – it delves into a lot of these issues.

RE: Green – Tan? Grey? I say, paint it black.

24 06 2008
archvillain

Patrick- Allow me to refresh your memory:

I have to admit that my primary reason for liking Mr. Lomborg is the fact that Environmentalists start screeching and foaming at the mouth whenever his name is mentioned.

Despite your screeching and foaming at the mouth, I maintain that Mr. Lomborg makes a lot of sense. Speaking of which, invoking the name of the (thankfully) former Secreatary of Defense is this year’s equivalent to Godwin’s Law.

Contrary to the wishful thinking of Environmental Extremists, the science for global warming is not settled. Examine this example.

24 06 2008
prairieflounder

Here is a great article that describes Environmentalism as the new Death Cult:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/jul/03/environmentalismthenewdeathcult

I think that this is a natural and un-healthy process that a lot of Atheists and intellectuals are experiencing. I believe that most people are not aware they are involving themselves in a cult. Some are acting on good intentions. Others are deadly serious. It’s like self loathing is necessary for these people to survive, they need guilt and punishment to be happy. Unfortunately this mental illness also requires that they share their beliefs with others and attempt to save us from our sins.

“The climate crisis is not a political issue; it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity.” -Al Gore.

A more damming quote against environmentalism I can’t imagine!
-pf

25 06 2008
Patrick

Now I’m not sure if you’re baiting. Look, you brought up Lomborg (a social researcher) when talking about climate change – I figure Rummy’s fair game. Howzibout Condi instead? There’s a paragon of honesty and virtue…

And if you think my mild scoffing is somehow “screeching and foaming”, you’ve got other issues. And I haven’t screeched since Dale & Kevin stuffed my into a trash can, when I was ten. I prefer to simmer, thanks.

The Investor’s Business Daily editorial was pretty run-of-the-mill disinfo, in my humble opinion. I mean, IBD is dedicated to sucking up to Wall St. and big business. I’ve never heard of Patterson before, but I’ll check out his criticisms of the IPCC. The Hoover Instituition is pretty much a think tank in the pocket of big oil (and whoever else they can suck up to), so there’s that.

I will go out on a limb and contradict you: The science of climate change/global warming is pretty damned settled. The public opinion of the same is being hotly debated. Have you checked out the IPCC? I haven’t – it’s billion freakin’ pages! But I have read the summaries and I’ve looked into the contributors.

Here’s a direct response to the “It’s the Sun, stupid” idea: Here.

And here’s a reply by Kenneth Tapping (“quoted” in the editorial) here. A quote: “It is the opinion of scientists, including me, that global warming is a major issue, and that it might be too late to do anything about it already.”

I like to think that I learned from you a large part of my skeptical outlook. I am fairly indiscriminate in that. I don’t subscribe to anybody’s newsletter and I don’t jump on bandwagons – I like to sabotage them. I dug up the above info in about twenty minutes. I’m not inclined to buy into a story, just because I like what it says – on any issue.

There. I almost worked myself up into a ‘foam’. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go fire up my Mega-Turbo-Laser Mind-Control Ray. It causes people to stop cross-citing articles about Richard Dawkins and quotes by Al Gore. Oh! And it runs on solar power. So, ya know, it’s GREEN.

25 06 2008
Patrick

@PF: I think the guy who wrote that piece was suffering from a strange delusion. He’s equating the ranting of the ‘end times’ cults with global warming ‘alarmists’. Ya know, that works pretty well, unless – I dunno – there were some kind of difference between science and religion.
And being an atheist sorta guy myself, I couldn’t care less where your sins land you. I do reserve the right to keep them from screwing my life up.

He does make a few good points though. It’s pretty well summarized thus: “They seem blind to the fact that backward religious sensibilities are being rehabilitated through the cause of environmentalism.” Sure, I’ve seen that. But most people are idiots, even the ones who are right – for the wrong reasons.

25 06 2008
archvillain

Patrick- You may criticize whomever you like. If you want to dump on Dimwit Don, you have my blessing. My comment was merely intended to highlight your comparison of Bjorn Lomborg with Donald Rumsfeld as an example of the “foaming and screeching” I was referring to. When someone Godwins an argument (attacks someone’s credibility by making spurious comparisons to archetypal evil), it is generally a sign of desperation. Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney, et al, are the new Godwin.

Regardless of Lomborg’s credentials, his mathematics are sound and based upon the data presented by the Disciples of Saint Algore. We (as in present-humanity) could bankrupt every nation on Earth and delay– for five years- the estimated .5°C rise in Global Temperatures over the next century. For a lot less money, we could simply adapt our civilization to the expected changes.

As an engineer, I take the presented figures and do a risk-benefit calculation. Trying to start a planet-wide Manhattan-Project-level push against Global Warming would not eliminate the problem, it would only delay a .5°C rise by five years– at the cost of bankrupting every country on the planet. This, of course, assumes that every nation on Earth committed all their resources to the problem.

By contrast, spending a few hundred Billion dollars on dealing with the effects of that .5°C temperature increase over the next century has a much higher probability of success and does not require every country to ruin its economy to accomplish. Furthermore, this permits wealthy nations like the EU and US to continue spending money on destroying malaria, aids, and other preventable diseases which are causing widespread human suffering right now.

But what do I know? I’m just an engineer.

25 06 2008
Patrick

Based on the science I’ve seen, an engineering perspective is probably the right one to take. As I understand it, it’s like we’ve built up a backlog of problems – even if the entire world started magically reversing the trend, things are going to continue to get worse, because of what’s already ‘in the pipe’. By that same premise, if we don’t do anything things are only going to get worse even further down the line.

All over the world, people are sticking their heads in the sand. In my own backyard, the city wants to build high rise condos (million dollar condos no less) on the most vulnerable flooding spot in town – also the most earthquake sensitive (built on silt, ya know). They want to move city hall to the waterfront. All this despite what their own studies and engineers have told them. So it’s not like they don’t know, they’re just not listening. The city council sees dollar signs and development revenue. I think it’s the same everywhere, probably – from municipal to the federal.

I don’t know what it would take to reverse the trends I’ve read about. I don’t know if it would bankrupt the global economy. It’s academic to debate it though, because we both know it’ll never happen. Not until the shit really starts to hit the fan. You’re right that appealing to people’s best interests is more effective than ranting and raving, but I think most people just don’t wanna think about it. How expensive does gas have to get, before people demand functional mass-transit? Before people carpool? Hell, before they maintain their cars properly? Call me jaded, but I think most of us are too damn comfortable to worry about what might be.

I try not to judge people by association – maybe I have done so with Lomborg, but I dunno. The first time he hit my radar it was the controversy surrounding his methodology and conclusions – maybe that prejudiced me? Well, if you’re so damn keen on this Lomborg bloke, I’ll go check him out more carefully. If he doesn’t hold up, I’ll say so. My instinct tells me he’s not a good litmus test for ideological alignment.

The Rumsfeld poke was just that ya know – a poke. You start declaring ‘Godwin’s Law’ on BushCo though and there goes all my fun. Ad hominem attacks are one thing, righteous attacks on credibility are another. (“Dane Cook: the Rumsfeld of comedy!”, “Kevorkian: the Dick Cheney of medicine!”, “Dan Quayle: the Bush 2 of the Bush 1 administration!”, etc., etc…)

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