Ten-Dollar Gasoline Forces America to Lose Weight

Evil-Oil does it again. They are jacking around with the price of oil because of the uncertainty in the Mid-East. Meanwhile POTUS is silently cheering on the crisis. His dream of forcing us into so-called “green” cars is closer to reality. For every dollar increase on a gallon of gas, he sells another Gov’m’nt green car.

Where was he when gas was eighteen cents a gallon and Gov’m’nt Motors was producing gas guzzling rust prone junk heaps? Not born yet, I can’t blame him for that one. POTUS does own the UAW, however, and they made the cars that we didn’t really want. They even called strikes against GM for the purpose of getting their piece of the pie. Now that the UAW owns Gov’m’nt Motors they want ten-dollar a gallon gas too.

Obama’s insistence on electric cars is way out of line with reality. He is legislating technological development. My bosses used to play that game all the time. Instead of redesigning a product to meet their quality requirements they placed the burden of finding a technological solution on the engineers. Often the solution was beyond our capabilities and didn’t happen until the science caught up to the problem years later. Obama believes that by forcing the gas prices to rise to ten dollars that we will rush out to buy Hybrid cars.

Does the math support that premise? Assume that a standard car gets 25 mpg, and a hybrid gets 40 mpg. Sounds great doesn’t it? Assume also, that each car is driven twelve thousand miles per year. With ten-dollar a gallon gas, the annual dollar savings between the two cars is $1800. Sounds good doesn’t it?  The difference in price between a standard car and its hybrid counter part is around four thousand dollars; the electric costing more. The payback for that extra expenditure would be 2.2 years, not bad.

How long do the hybrid batteries last? No one knows for sure at this point, or they are hiding it from us to keep from scaring buyers off. The cost of replacing the batteries is four thousand dollars.

How do hybrid cars get their advantage? Of course by using the batteries while creeping at low speeds like in stop and go traffic.  For long distances and speed they switch to gasoline power. How do they get good mileage with gasoline? One way is to downsize the motor. The Toyota Prius is a good example of that. The car uses a small four-cylinder motor. Most performance freaks like myself will reject the Prius because it is a gutless wonder. I’ve had my fill of under powered small cars from my VW days. I got great mileage, but I couldn’t take the need for a constant downshift to get the thing moving. Larger SUV Hybrids make more sense, but they come at a higher premium than the small cars. Batteries also weigh a ton, and the car uses energy to carry that heavy  battery.

What about a plug-in hybrid car?  You can charge it daily to keep the efficiency up. This will cost extra in electricity. At this time, the stats show that the current fleet is about 600,000 hybrids in the USA. If those cars needed to be charged, 450,000 of them would consume all the extra power capacity we have  today. The remaining 150,000 cars would require a new power plant be added to the grid.  Think about that one. If every one of the 143,000,000 cars in the US were all-electric and the entire fleet needed the grid for a charge,  how many extra power plants would we need to add?

What would we use to power all those new plants; solar, wind, nuclear, or coal?  The new plants won’t come cheap, and they won’t come fast. A bird wouldn’t be able to fly ten feet before he was chopped to shreds with a windmill blade if we added enough mills to power the fleet. Photovoltaic cells would cover every square mile of unused land and every roof in America, but we’ll get our food from China so that’s okay. Nuclear makes some sense, but the cost of the plants is exorbitant. The safety issues are horrendous, and the danger of releasing radiation into the atmosphere far outweighs any coal related pollution. Not to mention the potential of accidents from nuclear waste. Think about Chernobyl’s all around the country. I often think about my own situation in Chicago. We have one plant forty miles west of here and another one fifty miles to the east. A third one is just north of the city. If any one of them has a Chernobyl like accident, the entire city of Chicago would be an unusable ghost town for thousands of years, Lake Michigan would be permanently polluted, and a new interstate would be needed to skirt the radiation belt around the city. Six million people would have to find new homes immediately, and a million would die early from radiation poisoning.

The USA has been lucky, in that we have never had an accident like Chernobyl, but Harrisburg came close. We build our plants with stricter safety standards than the Russians did. That is why they cost as much as they do.  Disposing of nuclear waste is another hazard. Obama says we should  do like the French do. They deal with nuclear waste effectively. Really? What do they do with it? One thing they do is to reduce the amount of waste by recycling the spent fuel and extracting usable fuel.  Eventually, they kick the can down the road by burying the unusable material.

The government of France made a decision to go into the power business in the early nineteen seventies, and they have developed regulations and  facilities to deal with their reactors. I had to deal with the French power organization dubbed Electricite de France (EdF) during my engineering career. I can vouch for them as being fanatically rigid and steeped in bureaucracy with great resistance to change. During this same period, our country decided to pull back from nuclear power. The end result is we are way behind on development. Our plants were designed and built for a forty year life. Many of the early plants are already decommissioned. Plants built after nineteen seventy are at the end of life stage. What will we do when they must  go off line?

My points with all of this dialogue is that developing an energy policy is an absolute necessity for the USA. It won’t be easy, but a plan has to be developed and followed. We can no longer kick the can down the road. Secondly, converting the country to electric cars comes with a huge price tag and a huge change in lifestyle for all of us. It won’t be easy remembering to plug the car into an outlet every time you make a stop. By the way, where are the outlets?

In the meantime, if you don’t like the prospect of paying ten dollars for a gallon of gas, find a Chinaman who will trade his “Flying Squirrel” (bicycle) for your gas hog SUV. Now that’s an energy policy that will serve many objectives:

1.) We lose our dependence on foreign oil by giving up the car.

2.) We become physically fit by riding a bicycle.

3.) We lose weight and become healthier.

4.) Our air is purer, because we burn less fuel.

5.) We use less generated power because we watch less TV, surf the net less, BLOG less, and we go to bed earlier from the exertion of riding the bike.

We can’t lose with that kind of energy policy.

7 Responses

  1. Happy to read an informative post on an ever trending topic. Keep up the wonderful work.

  2. One really wonders where the solution lies. And here I am talking in a slightly more general sense, i.e. mankind, and not any or one part of it. I am sure if there were easy answers they would have been banked by now.

    • The problem is easier to solve than most of us will believe. Unfortunately, there is a huge special interest group that lives to serve itself, and not the good of mankind. They are the US Congress and the governments of every country in the world.
      Thanks for your insightful comment.

  3. Grumpa, the government taught me how to kill in VietNam and I am with you. They can take all my guns off of my dead body. And I know many more veterans that feel the same way.

  4. If Obama gets the energy tax passed, he stands to become a Billionaire by the end of year 2012. He won’t need to be president, he can join the super rich that are telling him what to do right now. Politicians have become the greatest SCAM ARTIST and have done it by dumbing down the real producers of our country. How gullible are ” WE the Sheeple?

  5. Yes Obama is wanting a socialist utopia. Don’t forget that he still wants to tax carbon in power generation as well as gas. He also wants to tax evil industries for their consumption of power. He promised to tax out of existence companies that did not fit his socialist utopia and he promised that on the campaign trail. Obama NEEDS TO BE A ONE TERM PRESIDENT.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

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