By on January 24, 2007

mgb22222.jpgIn last night’s State of the Union address, President Bush cooked-up a cute little saying: “20 by 10.” That’s a 20% reduction in American gas consumption over the next 10 years. In case you thought the Prez has decided to whack automakers with a 2 X 4, the fine print centers on renewable and alternative fuels: corn ethanol (E85), biodiesel, hydrogen and dilithium crystals. Bush also promised to change car fuel economy regs from current fleet averages to attribute-based (size) requirements. There’s a link to the plan below, and plenty of analysis online. So let’s talk about towing.

Before the State of the Union speech, the SUV Owners of America (SUVOA) sent out a press release blaring “99% of Car Towing Capacity Lost Since 1970s.” My first reaction: naw, c’mon, really? Other than bell bottoms, my 800 meter sprint time and the original Windows operating system, I can’t think of anything that’s declined so precipitously in the last thirty years. And yet it’s true: 70% of American cars could tow 2100 pounds then, just 1% now.

My second thought: who cares? It’s not as if a car’s ability to tow a bass boat is vital to our national security. Besides, today’s tow oriented buyers can buy any number of SUV’s (or decacab pickups) with enough towing capacity to haul most of Montana, and pay chump change for the privilege. Hell, they’re giving them away! Ah, the SUVOA asks, but for how long? 

The SUVOA warns that federal regs threaten to emasculate America’s SUV’s towing capacity, just as they did for the automobile.

"Federal auto policy doesn't always consider the tradeoffs that exist among national goals,” claimed SUVOA President Barry W. McCahill. “One day the focus is on new safety requirements. The next, it's on tougher emissions controls. Today, it's on both those and improving fuel economy and they are often at odds with each other… The loss of car towing capacity and reductions in safety because of vehicle downsizing are unfortunate historical evidence of what can happen."

Call Mr. McCahill a reactionary Luddite whose Ostrich-like head posture is warming the planet to oblivion, but he has supporters. The SUVOA press release summons Derrick Crandall, President and CEO of the American Recreation Coalition.

"The only vehicles left that enable people to enjoy the great outdoors- SUVs and pickups- are under attack and could also lose towing capacity. Nobody intended to kill off the station wagon that was the mainstay for family transportation and recreation. But it happened."

Well, the minivan happened. But Crandall’s point is clear: Uncle Sam’s politically correct pursuit of high mileage vehicles ignores the bigger picture.

The U.S. is home to more than 11 million trailer boats and five million trailer RVs– and that doesn’t include trailers for motorcycles, ATV’s, snowmobiles, U-Hauled goods, farm equipment, etc. Mess with that and you’re messing with Americans’ ability to enjoy the great outdoors, move stuff around, grow crops and, um, fight obesity (Crandall’s idea). 

While none of this is bound to impress people fully committed to an immediate and dramatic improvement in America’s vehicular efficiency– many of whom will claim it’s entirely possible to reconcile environmental goals with the recreational industry’s “needs”– it’s certainly true that lawmakers working in this area are unlikely to consider the unintended consequences of their legislative actions.

The UK offers us a glimpse of what can happen when government’s heavy hands wrap around the neck of the automotive free market in the name of environmentalism. Our British cousins now tax cars based on their CO2 emissions and location (“congestion charging” and coming soon “road pricing”). Despite being an oil-producing nation, they also sport some of the world’s highest gas prices (three times US prices). Oh, and everything car related is taxed at 17.5% (VAT or “Value Added Tax”). The result: the vast majority of Britain’s so-called working class can’t afford a car.

This lack of car ownership restricts their citizen’s mobility, which restricts economic migration, which exacerbates the country’s vast North – South, urban – rural economic divide. Even if lower income UK consumers CAN buy a car, the vehicle sucks-up a large percentage of their income, which prevents them from spending it on other things (obviously). In other words, the government’s anti-car policies– which depend on the same oil addiction and anti-pollution rhetoric we know and love– depress UK inhabitants’ living standards.

Could it happen here? The State of the Union speech doesn’t provide much indication where the U.S. federal government will draw the line. Depending on your point-of-view, the fact that the proposed automotive efficiency standards offer a new set of loopholes (e.g. automakers can now buy and sell CAFE credits) is either a blessing or a conspiracy in disguise. Meanwhile, the free market is speaking, as consumers decide how much mileage they need. The question is, is their government listening? 

RF interviews the SUVOA's Ron Defore below.

[Click here for the president's proposals.]

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171 Comments on “President Bush’s State of The Union Address: Towing the Line?...”


  • avatar
    ash78

    File this one under necessity is the mother of invention: Europe has a number of manufacturers that build travel trailers that are both lightweight and can accommodate 4-6 people for weekend trips. They are made to be towed by small family cars (by US standards) and typically weigh under a metric tonne (2,200#) with 10% tongue weight. Here in the US, there are very few, if any, lightweight TT’s that meet that–and they definitely don’t accommodate four people.

    We don’t have them here because we just haven’t had the need–there are so many trucks/SUVs and fuel is (still) relatively cheap. But it’s possible to create trailers and boats that can be towed by cars, there just has to be the demand. I would LOVE to be able to enjoy upscale camping without the massive investment in a tow vehicle and trailer, or worse, a full motorhome.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I wonder where all the station wagons went. Rather than Crossover vehicles or Cute SUV,s why not build wagons? The Sable taurus wagons were very popular and the caprice classic wagons are actually holding value. Honda, Toyot and Nissan all made wagon versions of their Accord, camry, and maxima at one time.

    I would buy a stationwagon and dump my truck if I could find one that would haul a 4 x 8 foot object in the back

  • avatar

    >>Our British cousins now tax cars based on their CO2 emissions and location (“congestion charging” and coming soon “road pricing”).

    UK is far more crowded than the US. Regulation necessarily increases with population density. (We wouldn’t need pollution controls on cars if we still had 100 million people instead of 300 million.) If the US population keeps increasing at the current rate, the equivalent of about four New Jerseys a decade, look for congestion charging and road pricing to come to cities and highways near you.

  • avatar

    >>I wonder where all the station wagons went. Rather than Crossover vehicles or Cute SUV,s why not build wagons? The Sable taurus wagons were very popular and the caprice classic wagons are actually holding value. Honda, Toyot and Nissan all made wagon versions of their Accord, camry, and maxima at one time.

    The CAFE standards are not nearly as stringent for trucks as they are for cars. Hence, the car companies replaced station wagons with SUVs.

  • avatar

    ash78, search out the Top Gear episode where they go caravaning ;)

  • avatar
    taxman100

    The elite in Washington don’t like the choices the great unwashed masses make in the vehicles they purchase, so they want to force you to either buy something you don’t really want, or better yet, force you out of your vehicle one way or the other.

    Who can say no, since it is for their Goddess, Mother Earth, or better yet, “for the children.”

    The only way this will happen is if everyone is forced to drive little crackerbox cars – of course those in Washington will still be chauffered around in SUV’s and limos, but hey, the laws don’t apply to them.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    i hate camping

  • avatar
    nyc

    I may not be typical example, but the increased cost of car ownership in the UK certainly doesn’t depress living standards. As a native New Yorker and a past inhabitant of London I can tell you that decreased car ownership dramatically increases one’s quality of life. In London I never had to deal with blaring horns, constant traffic noise, or near death experiences crossing 8 lanes of traffic.

    On another point, as mentioned above, the UK is a completely different place, higher densities and a more urban environment necessitate the restrictions on car use. The NY Metro area would be about the only comparable place in the US.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    In a prior life I had access to a vast amount of historical technical vehicle data. Phone calls regarding technical questions, including towing capacity, got funneled to me.

    A guy had me look up the towing capacity on a 1977 Lincoln with a 460 motor. With god as my witness that thing was rated to tow 10,000 lbs by the manufacturer! We had an endless number of stories regarding questions from guys that subscribed to “Trailer Life” magazine.

    To Ash’s comment: Travel trailers are just like cars here when it comes to weight. They could be made much lighter, but at a cost. They’re all cardboard and styrofoam as it is, but more expensive materials would be needed to significantly bring weight down for a given size. All anybody cares about is the cost. And besides, owning a 24 ft. travel trailer justifies the “need” for a Mega-SUV. My daughter and I get by fine with a tent.

  • avatar

    nyc: There are many ways to measure a country's "living standards," such as how many hours an average citizen must work to afford a loaf of bread or a refrigerator. (By contrast, the expression "quality of life" is almost entirely subjective.) No matter how you slice it, I don't think you can say that the average UK citizen has a high standard of living because Londoners don't have to deal with blaring car horns or constant traffic noise. In fact, traffic volume can actually be an indication of economic health.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    I’m not worried about towing. Used Silverados and F-150′s are as plentiful as used muscle cars were in the 70′s. Besides, GM has a prototype of the dilithium crystal powered Silverado that will be a big hit once the Pakistani engineering firm they hired figures out what a dilithium crystal does.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Financial disincentives to buy a car do not lower living standards, they change lifestyles. If I wasn’t spending wads of cash on cars every year, I ‘d have more money for concerts, CDs, clothes, computers, dinner out…

    I’ve been following the “debate” on global warming for a decades, now, and until this morning, I would have found Taxman100′s comments deeply offensive. No longer! The attitude of Taxman100 and others to environmentalists – as though we are nutcases – and the attitude of Ron Defore – that we must consider recreational needs above species survival – will no longer disturb me because I am fairly certain that their attitudes and my attitude no longer matter. It is too late to evade the serious consequences of global warming and therefore my belief that the science is right and Taxman100s belief that the science is irrelevant and Ron Defore’s belief that we can’t throw out the Bass Boat with the globally warming Bass Water are unimportant.

    What changed? Today’s newspaper carries an aritlce that says, effectively, all the glaciers in the Alps will be gone in 50 years. There’s no responsible scientific dissent. Given the retreat in glacial and polar ice that has already been recorded, I think we’re well past the point of no return, so we might as well relax and enjoy it. I can simply amuse myself from here on out by checking to see how bad conditions get. As I’m currently in my 50′s, I don’t think I’ll live long enough to see Global Warming end Western Civilization but, then again, maybe I will.

    I hope Taxman100 and Ron Defoe are young…

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    The north south divide is nothing to do with being able to buy a car or run it in the UK. You don’t need a car in London, just too impractical where the majority of the southern migration runs to. Its about socioeconomics, markets and company investments.
    The rest is true about heavy handedness involving the various taxes regarding cars ownership. A necessity the government knows and will constantly plunder as there is no real option but to own your own transport for the big majority of your journey in the UK, (with exception to working in london) I can see congestion charging arriving here, but i bet it will be fought against tooth and nail. It makes sense but its application to other towns and cities i think is flawed and like with London the knock on effects with loss of business is horrendous.
    My young holiday years were spent in a caravan, a decent sized one filled to the brim with all th egear a family needs for 2 weeks of heaven in Cornwall etc. This was pulled by a variety of vehicles from the Austin Princess, Ford Granada, Vauxhall Cavalier to a Rover 200. No problems, perception will change here, you will need some big vehicles for big jobs but you’d be surprised with the ability of smaller vehicles.

  • avatar
    gunnarheinrich

    “Dilithium crystals”, boy we are a bunch of Trekkies here.

    As you were.

  • avatar
    nyc

    BostonTeaParty hits it right on with the North South divide in the UK. Afterall, the US has great roads, cheap cars and cheaper gas but the Coasts/”Heartland” divide is arguably just as large.

    (I have no figures to back this up, just observations).

  • avatar
    geeber

    KixStart: What changed? Today’s newspaper carries an aritlce that says, effectively, all the glaciers in the Alps will be gone in 50 years.

    The November 7, 1937 edition of the Rocky Mountain News ran an article claiming that scientific measurement of glaciers in Rocky Mountain National Park showed that “within a few short decades, (the glaciers in the park) may be eternally gone.” They still exist, in 2007…

    In 1895, The New York Times predicted widespread global cooling. In 1924, it reported signs of a “New Ice Age.”

    But, covering all bases, in 1933, 1952, 1959 and 1969, the Times predicted global warming. In 1974 and 1975, however, it was back to another pending Ice Age. Now, of course, we are back to global warming.

    Time magazine declared global warming was happening in 1930, switched to global cooling in 1974, and is now back to global warming.

    As for the “end of Western Civilization” – religions, soothsayers and pundits have been predicting The End for centuries.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    KixStart:
    I’m certainly not gonna tell you what to think or what should or shouldn’t offend you, but try to remember that 30 years ago we were worried about a coming ice age, 20 years ago we were worried about acid rain, 10 years ago it was the rainforests, and now it’s global warming (or global “climate change” when it snows .

    What really changes was where the money is and where it goes.
    All the money that’s worth making has already been made installing scrubbers on coal factory smokestacks–no sense lobbying for acid rain reduction any more. If the problem is solved, then why does the rain eat the paint off cars in coal-fired West Virginia?
    Now it’s just more economical to go after CO2 and “greenhouse” gases. Why? Because the gov’t can tax you on it, that’s why.
    In another 5 years, we’ll be back to worrying about the landfills we talked about in 1992. The gov’t will have a preemptive disposal tax on everything plastic you buy.

    Don’t panic–after all, global warming is what got rid of the glaciers and gave us beautiful Colorado.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Isn’t the SUVOA just an industry astroturf entity?

    Sourcewatch.org entry

    Who can say no, since it is for their Goddess, Mother Earth, or better yet, “for the children.”

    I’ve watched and read enough nature and prehistory to conclude that global warming may or may not be human-caused vs. stuff that just happens as part of the course of nature. Very Bad Stuff does happens – supervolcanoes, catastrophic earthquakes, big asteroids from outer space. The earth will be here long after we are, just like it as shrugged off well over 99% of species that came before us.

    It’s not the earth we’re trying to protect, it’s ourselves.

    Will the next generation resent us for having a worse lifestyle because our current generation sucked up all the expendable resources? Does our members of our species give a hoot if we’re still around in the next few hundred, thousand, million years? How selfish our your genes? mine look quite selfish so far, my 3 little kids deserve a heatlhy future, right?

  • avatar
    nyc

    Just look at the costs of CO2 reduction as insurance.

    Maybe the earth will stay the same, maybe get a little bit hotter, maybe a lot hotter, maybe even colder. Weather is very difficult to predict. However, the costs could potentially be enormous.

    Why not take out a relatively cheap (compared to the potential costs of climate change) insurance policy by reducing CO2 now?

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Heh, camping; I think the last time I was “camping” everybody got poison oak/ivy and we ended up eating chilli out of plastic bags with pierced corners, a really awkward way to eat such cuisine with as much caspin as your average habanero. OH and some idiot broke the sweetwater device to remove contaminants and bacteria from the river water… awesome, it was a memorable but not repeatable experience.

    Somebody needs to post a link to Top Gear’s camping adventure. I am that somebody.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBr12b5DOv4
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHtqawWz65Y
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viRKiLPCElM

    Towing… isn’t that Sajeev’s realm of expertise? I’ve never towed a damn thing…. but I have been towed in an XJ on public roads by a Navigator using tow straps ~25mph… it was slightly illegal and servo steering sucked almost as bad as servo brakes. I’m giving consideration to adding a hitch to my track car so I can tow a set of racing tires to the track.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    When I lived in the UK, I got tired of buying used K R A P mobiles so looked around to see what new cars were affordable. It was 1987.

    Holy wow, how about a new Buick Roadmaster price (in the USA) for a Ford Escort estate car (stationwagon) in the UK?

    I ended up buying a new Lada Riva (still in production new, in Ukraine). Yep, a brand new updated (?!) 1967 Fiat with hot rolled steel so thick, it added 400 pounds to the weight compared to the original Fiat. It cost me the equivalent of $5000 new, about 1/3 the price of the Escort, and functionally did a similar job. Talk about a cost of living adjustment! You can look online and get the price of any British market vehicle “out the door” and compare it to the US. You’ll get a shock. Taxation? You have no idea. When I lived there, they taxed you 17.5% VAT, plus 10% car tax, and the 10% car tax was taxed again at 17.5% VAT!!!! EVERYTHING along the supply line is taxed at 17.5%, not just the end-product.

    This is why a new Brit spec Prius costs 17,000 pounds new (about $33,000) and why a US spec Prius costs $22,000 new.

    The Lada was an exercise machine as well as family transport. I had great biceps. It steered heavier than the Duece and a Half Dodge I sometimes drove in the USAF (also in the UK, in the late 1970′s).

    The idiots in Washington are entirely clueless, virtually all of them, and the longer we leave everything in their incompetent hands, the worse off we’ll all be.

    Honest to God, we need to fire them all and start over. The US Constitution and Constitution Party would be great starting points, IMHO.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Glenn A
    There’s also quite a bit of purchasing power disparity between the dollar and pound (especially now at £1=$1.99), but still most of the price differential is real. Cars over there are just expensive all around–buying, fueling, owning.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    I’m not opposed to reducing CO2 as insurance, but I am opposed to current methods.
    Taking my money and “disappearing” it into the blackhole of gov’t coffers does nothing to help and just makes me poorer.
    Focus on truly unnecessary crap (i.e. 100% of what’s sold in radio shack and 90% of what’s in walmart).

    no more stupid gadgets.

    I don’t watch TV, and I know how to operate windows and blinds. When my two housemates in college went away for the summer, our electric bill dropped by 70%–i was still using the stove and the refrigerator, mind you.

    I’ll stop driving when everyone else stops watching football and using the air conditioning with the blinds open at noon.

  • avatar
    nyc

    Also there are other options. No matter how much people complain about public transport in the UK it’s way more exetensive than it is here (again, the NY area is the obvious exception).

  • avatar
    Fred D.

    What is extremely interesting is that European models often have a tow rating that is 2-3x greater than the same car here in the US.

    Take the Honda CR-V for example. It has a 1,500lb tow rating for a US model. The UK model has a 1,500kg (3300lb) tow rating.

    Why? More lawyers here? Car makers trying to protect their bigger vehicles?

  • avatar
    ash78

    Fred
    I suppose it is due to the lack of towing packages on most non-truck American offerings (oil cooler, brake controller, etc), but it could definitely be litigious in nature.

    European members of a couple of car forums I frequent find it odd that Americans almost always associate towing with trucks exclusively. My old college roommate had a 1.6 Sentra with a hitch, which was able to take a waverunner on 400-mi trips with relative ease. Somebody moving? Forget your buddy with a truck, just stick a basic trailer on the Sentra!

  • avatar
    detroit9000

    I think it’s a horse race between the US and China: who is going to regulate last. There is no way in heck we’re going to pick cleaner air over economic growth until we absolutely have to. For proof, review the entire history of our nation. We’re about one thing, and one thing only: unrestricted business. The remaining civic innovations are ancillary to that cause.

  • avatar
    MW

    I’m with KixStart above … you either accept the conclusions of the vast majority of the world’s independent climate scientists, or you choose not to.

    If you do, there isn’t really any room for debate about whether we need to change our lifestyles, the only question is how and how much. For me, it has meant buying a more efficient furnace for my house and taking public transportation to work. I hope my next vehicle is substantially more efficient than the one it replaces. For someone else, it may mean downsizing to a smaller travel trailer that can be pulled behind a normal car (by the way, I think Subaru wagons tow 3,000 pounds).

    Of course, if you choose to believe climate change and peak oil are some sort of liberal-environmental elitist communist conspiracy to take your Hemi Durango away, you can just put on your headphones and listen to Rush et. al. while the seas rise, the forests die, and we get involved in more brutal, pointless wars. If you don’t see it now, I’m not sure what will convince you.

    On a related note, anyone else notice that vintage VW Vanagon campers now sell for more than they cost new, despite having unreliable drivetrains and offering less-than-great driving dynamics (to put it kindly)? I keep waiting for someone to see the market potential for a small van-based camper that doesn’t cost a fortune and gets over 25 mpg.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Let’s see… there’s 6.5 billion of us. Is there any other animal on the planet that numbers in the billions and weighs 100lbs or so, average? And starts fires and digs up dead dinosaurs and burns them?

    Could we be having an impact? Nah. I’m going to worry about more important things… like my tow capacity because I’m going to get a big-ass boat. Make that a big-ass bass boat.

    Those greenies and elites in DC and LA and wherever, it just kills them that people might have fun. That’s all that’s going on here. Don’t worry about it. It’s just a conspiracy to kill your fun.

    By the way, the global ice age predictions of a couple of decades ago came from using then-new space instrumentation. The papers got hold of the story before the researchers had a chance to figure out what may or may not be going on. Turned out they needed to make adjustements to how they measured things from space. The ice-age story was big but the “Scientists Figure Out What They’re Doing Wrong” story got ignored.

    Anyway, not to worry… It no longer matters…

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    TTAC was prescient in posting an Amphicar review last summer:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1947

  • avatar

    I love the smell of Astroturf in a press release! Ugh.

    What a complete load of crap-o-la. I see plenty of small-boat sized hitches on Jettas, Accords, etc around here (Washington state, where boats outnumber people.)

    All the guys I know who tow serious weight (read: really expensive boats, hobby cars, livestock, etc) all have 3/4 ton pickups with Diesel engines.

    The VAST space in between those two towing extremes is more than adequately served by the Big 2.5′s fully redundant array of SUVs. Not to mention every other SUV by every other manufacturer. Hell who DOESN’T sell an SUV anymore? Aston-Martin, Jaguar and um… Rolls/Bentley. My gawd, are the Brits the only sensible civilization left? We’re doomed. But I digress.

    Besides… must I recall the tale of my frequent towing of my spouse’s 1 BHP mount (yes, a British made, all wheel drive hay-burning off roader!) all over England in a Volvo 440TD (roughly the equivalent of a VW Jetta TDI)? I’d create a link back to my comment telling the tale but this site’s search feature obviously does not query the comment database. The image of the MG & the boat I will take as homage to my previous screed! Oh well. Suffice to say, the myth that you MUST have a giant V8 and a ladder frame to tow stuff with a hitch is just that, a myth.

    I suspect the veracity of the SUVOA is equally mythical, because those grass roots smell a tad like plastic to me. The Big 2.5 played a shell game with CAFE and truck-based platforms for a decade too long and now are paying the piper. Any competent automotive engineer should be able to build a chassis that is by every definition a “car” (NOT a “truck”) that will tow whatever your average Joe Sixpack wants to play with in the woods, lakes, mountains, whatever. Just drop a Diesel in there and quitcherbitchin!

    –chuck

  • avatar
    MW

    The SUVOA’s news release also completely ignores the fact that car construction seems to have changed to reflect the fact that most people don’t CARE about towing anything. As I noted above, a Subaru Outback can tow 3,000 lbs; interestingly, so can a Hyundai Elantra, at least according to Edmund’s.

    When I inquired about having a trailer hitch put on a Honda Civic wagon I owned years ago, the UHaul guy showed me that it wasn’t really possible for the car to tow — not because of power or braking limitations, but because there was no structural steel behind the rear axle to attach a hitch to. How much weight could that engineering decision have saved? 50 lbs?

    I suspect that if more people wanted to tow with cars, more cars would be made to tow, with only modest design changes.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Financial disincentives to buy a car do not lower living standards, they change lifestyles. If I wasn’t spending wads of cash on cars every year, I ‘d have more money for concerts, CDs, clothes, computers, dinner out…

    A restriction on mobility does alter your living standards. Outside of a few select cities, you do need a car to get to the concert, or to the mall to buy CD’s clothes, and computers, or to get to the restaruant. The smaller cities that I have lived in simply do not have the mass transit budget needed to have an adequate system, or at least one that will operate the routes you want it to. Folks who like to stay at home and do nothing will not be affected by this, but for others who like to venture beyond the end of their street, more can be accomplished when you’re not having to wait 30-45 minutes for a bus/train to arrive.

    With that said, I think a better idea would be to allow a kei-class of cars, like what Japan has been using since the end of WWII. This class of car was instrumental in Japan’s postwar recovery as it provided transportation for citizens who needed a car, but only had enough money to buy a motorcycle. Of course perceptions would have to be dealt with, but depending on the success of the Smart vehicles, I think this would be a more attractive alternative than to just let the government suck your money down into a black hole with no return on investment.

  • avatar
    GlennS

    Good article, Robert!

    starlightmica:
    Nice find; “What is clear is that SUVOA is a front for SUV manufacturers…”

    My $0.02:
    This article is (more) about a 20% reduction in American gas consumption over 10 years, not global warming per se.

    While I would feel for those who truly need heavy-duty haulin’ machines to make a living (contractors and such), imagine if you will that gas prices go to $5 (or more) a gallon.
    That’s not outside the realm of reality over the next 10 years.

    Wonder how many folks would suddenly decide, “ya know, I guess I don’t really *need* that recreational boat (or camping trailer) after all.” Might be a need for a Chris-Craft (or Airstream) Death Watch then. Used 19′ boat, anyone?

    Another take could be: If the Big 2.5 do go under, who’d be left standing to sell you a truck with enough haulin’ capacity to bring the 19′ boat (that you got a spectacular deal on) down to the lake? Oh yea, Toyota: New Tundra anyone?

    Will reducing gas consumption by 20% over 10 years be painful? Probably. Will politicians buckle to public pressure to ease their pain? ‘Nuff said. Fear not America, our addiction to gasoline is assured–for now.

    Alternatives? As for ethanol, I recently heard a radio ad from FordMoCo (on NPR I think) touting how many E85-ready cars they sell. Yea, but: I dont care how many Ford cars are able to use E85–try and find an E85 pump here in New England…

    But we have “10 years” to get more E85 pumps built. Never mind that, as the guy from the SUV-owners group said: “Do the math” but this time on ethanol. Thought the “new math” of the ’70s was difficult to grasp? This newer math is magical.

    If I were a betting man, I’d look to companies like Honda that “get it” now, and will be there when alternative fuels become truly essential. But we’re not quite there yet.

    It’s a free market, so SUV on all–if you can afford the gas.

    Bring us up to warp speed, Scotty!
    Captian Glenn in CT

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    There used to be palm trees in Antarctica. I think the planet’s been there before.

    GW is just being politically correct since he no longer has to satisfy his base constituency. I hope I can bet against “20 in 10″. It looks like easy money.

    BTW, using that definition of “losing 99% of towing capacity” is total hyperbole. I hate BS from any source.

  • avatar
    Seth

    Besides, GM has a prototype of the dilithium crystal powered Silverado that will be a big hit once the Pakistani engineering firm they hired figures out what a dilithium crystal does.

    You cracked me up cheezeweggie… I am still chuckling…

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    at the rate we are going, we are all gonna need boats, cause if the polar ice caps melt, there will be no more land to tow them over. there – problem solved!

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Back to the important stuff…

    How did the minivan kill towing? My minivan will tow 3500 lbs. Without the tow package, it will pull 2000 lbs. The tow package came with the car because that’s what was on the lot in red and otherwise accessorized the way I wanted.

    I have to wonder about the assertion that just 1% of the vehicles can tow 2100lbs. Statistics with an agenda are often picked creatively. OK if only 1% of America’s fleet can tow 2100 lbs, how much of America’s fleet can tow 2000 lbs? Like, suppose 2000lbs is the standard tow capacity for a minivan without tow package? Is that 100lbs really unimportant in terms of capacity but very important in terms of how alarming the statistic looks?

    My 4-cylinder cars are rated to tow 1500lbs. If you move the bar a bit further – like down to 1499lbs, what’s the percentage of the fleet that can make those numbers?

    I’ve got a news bulletin for Ron Defore… if only 1% of America’s fleet can tow 2100lbs, that’s because only 1% of America’s fleet ever is needed to tow 2100lbs or more.

    Oh, and I got a laugh out of McCahill’s statement, “The only vehicles left that enable people to enjoy the great outdoors- SUVs and pickups…” All along, I’ve managed to enjoy the great outdoors without an SUV or pickup. Am I not enjoying it correctly?

    I recollect there was one time that 11 other people and I were going to go enjoy the great outdoors all together. We needed special equipment for that… a 15-passenger van rental and a 1000lb trailer. Was that OK? Was I still enjoying the outdoors incorrectly?

  • avatar
    MW

    I’m with quasimondo on the kei cars. They’re suitable for 90% of the driving Americans do, and they’re available NOW. Many families could do with one of those and one larger vehicle. Does Dad really need that 5,000 lb towing capacity to commute to the office alone?

  • avatar
    MW

    “The only vehicles left that enable people to enjoy the great outdoors” also include bikes, skis, horses, canoes, and feet. It always cracks me up when people “enjoy the great outdoors” from inside their climate-controlled vehicles with the windows rolled up. Excuse me, exactly what are you enjoying?

  • avatar
    JSForbes

    Depending on your point-of-view, the fact that the proposed automotive efficiency standards offer a new set of loopholes (e.g. automakers can now buy and sell CAFE credits) is either a blessing or conspiracy in disguise.

    I don’t see whats wrong with this. It’s been effective in other industries (coal) and it should lead to the most efficient level of cost/mileage reduced.

    I sure do feel sorry for all those poor, poor people who won’t be able to tow their boats.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    I’m convinced about the low towing capacity of US spec cars being for legal reasons. 1%!! A Corrolla in the 1970′s could tow 2000#! I just had my son tow my ’66 Ford pickup with our Forester. Enough chickenshit. Europeans have been towing Caravans for decades. And in Germany, at least, the regs. on towing are very regulated.

  • avatar

    RF: No matter how you slice it, I don’t think you can say that the average UK citizen has a high standard of living because Londoners don’t have to deal with blaring car horns or constant traffic noise. In fact, traffic volume can actually be an indication of economic health.

    Traffic volume may be such an indicator according to conventional measurements of GNP, but I don’t think the question is asked of people living in noisy environments, “how much would you pay to get rid of the noise?” If I lived in a noisy environment, I would pay quite a bit.

    “Noise costs the European Union (EU) ¤¤10-40 billion annually, by various estimates, with roughly half of this due to road noise. Contributing factors include medical costs, reduced worker productivity, and de facto condemnation of noise-exposed land. Due mostly to the demands of
    greater population density, European noise mitigation efforts are far ahead of those of the United States, and U.S. officials are paying attention: this spring, officials and researchers toured the best European projects.”

    you can read the rest of this here: http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2004/112-11/forum.html

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    “The only vehicles left that enable people to enjoy the great outdoors- SUVs and pickups- are under attack and could also lose towing capacity. Nobody intended to kill off the station wagon that was the mainstay for family transportation and recreation. But it happened.”

    Dunno, my feet are a great vehicle for getting me to the great outdoors.

  • avatar
    jdv

    This bit of logic didn’t work for me:
    “Even if lower income UK consumers CAN buy a car, the vehicle sucks-up a large percentage of their income, which prevents them from spending it on other things (obviously). In other words, the government’s anti-car policies– which depend on the same oil addiction and anti-pollution rhetoric as we hear here– depress UK inhabitants’ living standards.”

    From a purely economic sense:
    Wouldn’t it follow then if they couldn’t afford a car then they would have that large percentage of their income to spend on other things? And that it would increase their living standards as long as the measurement didn’t include car ownership?

    I’m not endorsing anything the brits are doing, I’m just not sure that part of your argument works.

  • avatar
    GlennS

    …at the rate we are going, we are all gonna need boats, cause if the polar ice caps melt, there will be no more land to tow them over. there – problem solved!

    Good one, jerseydevil
    (That brought on an ear-to-ear smile.)

    The ad campaign could be interesting:
    “Bummed out about your favorite back road being under water? Chris-Craft has the answer! Imagine the fun you’ll have navigating the newly-created waterways between flooded treetops in a new Chris-Craft ‘Z5′ speed boat!”

    Row to your Chris-Craft dealer and take a test drive today!

    ;-)

  • avatar
    Kevin

    May I be the first to say “20 by 10″ will not happen? That would mean decreasing gas usage by 2.3% per year for 10 years. Will we do that in 2007? No. Will we do that in 2008? No. And that pretty much puts us fatally behind schedule doesn’t it?

    As for the great UK debate, I work for an English company so let me point out that the vast majority of Brits do not live in London and cannot get to work by tube or train. They actually have to commute in cars on crowded roads just like us evil ‘mericans do.

    And yes they pay far more for their cars, fuel, and virtually everything else (partly) because government-mandated fuel economy reduces economic productivity, period. Most people are worse off — if not, the government would not need to force their behavior, QED. Whether that is good or bad depends on your own individual values.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Also there are other options. No matter how much people complain about public transport in the UK it’s way more exetensive than it is here (again, the NY area is the obvious exception).

    I’ve found that those who say we don’t need cars either have never gone without a car, or lived in the two cities in the U.S. that allow you to go without one. If you can tell me a reasonable option outside of the shoddy public transportation that most small cities have, I’m all ears.

    Big 2.5 played a shell game with CAFE and truck-based platforms for a decade too long and now are paying the piper.

    2.5 isn’t the only one who played this shell game, or did we forget that a one-inch lift on the Subaru Outback allowed them to tell the EPA to designate it as a light truck for the very same CAFE loopholes you single out the 2.5 for?

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Kevin:
    January 24th, 2007 at 3:25 pm
    May I be the first to say “20 by 10″ will not happen?

    Well, maybe the second.

    And all politics aside, I’d love to see a tally of what % of SOTU promises/statements/whatever they are – actually come to pass. Clinton wanted to end all human pain and suffering (or was it just American pain and suffering). Last I checked there was still lots of that too.

    The point is, the SOTU promises are probably even behind campaign promises in “% fullfilled”.

  • avatar
    ash78

    If any history nerds are interested, here’s an archive of all the SOTU addresses from previous presidents:

    SOTU

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    Does that 1″ lift on the outback do anything against fuel economy? Does classifying it as a light truck allow any kind of CAFE shenanigans?

    I haven’t looked into the outbacks all that closely, but they’re the only way to get a manual transmission legacy wagon with the 2.5 turbo. I wonder if it would be reasonable to buy an outback and lower it

  • avatar
    Luther

    But, covering all bases, in 1933, 1952, 1959 and 1969, the Times predicted global warming. In 1974 and 1975, however, it was back to another pending Ice Age. Now, of course, we are back to global warming.

    The new and improved Gov’t/broadcast media sucker-trap is now “climate change”… Lets try to keep up shall we.

    The price of gasoline is basically the same everywhere in the world. The higher price at the pump is directly proportional to the ability of politicians to sucker the electorate out of their earnings.

    Maybe SUVOA slogan should be: “Save the Russians and Canadians, drive an SUV”

    Whats with this love affair with Glaciers? The only Glaciers that I value are the ones in my drink.

  • avatar
    MgoBLUE

    Did I hear that E85 burns cleaner than gasoline?

    It better for $5/gallon!

    They can put the first New England E85 pump in your town, Glenn. I’m all set for now.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Yosemite kicks so much more butt now that the glaciers are gone. Who’s with me? ;)

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Of course the other option I advocate is for the US to go 100% nuclear — ALL power comes from splitting atoms. This would give us such a huge reduction of CO2 emissions, that CAFE standards could roll back to 1969.

  • avatar
    nyc

    quasimondo. I managed to get all around the UK using public transit…including out in the sticks. That being said it wasn’t great. I agree that it’s shoddy…but

    it’s still better than what we have in the US.

    And with some work it could be far better. Cars have only really taken hold in the UK (relatively) recently…public transit was much better in the past.

    But I digress…I don’t know much about towing but why is it that my (US) VW GTI was rated to tow only 600lbs when you see euro-specs Golfs with much smaller engines towing fairly large trailers? Is it simply a matter of adding some sort of tow package that’s not available in the US?

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    ash78–i’m with you. like i said earlier, global warming brought us beautiful colorado, and all of the food we get from toby keith’s breadbasket.

    the thing with the ice caps is that looking down from a satellite the land area seems to be shrinking, but the caps are also getting *THICKER* in places.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Does that 1″ lift on the outback do anything against fuel economy? Does classifying it as a light truck allow any kind of CAFE shenanigans?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/13/arts/13SUBA.html?ex=1389330000&en=7e0f7f959f6d66cf&ei=5007&partner=USERLAND

    Since the outback is considered a truck, it’s excemption doesn’t hurt Subaru when it comes to CAFE averages across the remainder of their car line, and they avoid potentially hefty fines for not meeting the average. Dodge did the same thing with the Magnum and folks latched on to them like piranahas to a hemopheliac with a paper cut.

  • avatar
    jdv

    I vote for 50 new nuclear power plants in the Nevada desert, serving electricity across the nation. And water-cooled lithium-ion batteries in every car!

    Solves many problems at once!

    I’m all for reducing America’s oil/gas usage simply to reduce the leverage of some less-than-admirable countries.

    But I live 5 minutes away from my work, and so feel no guilt over my 18mpg sedan (that I love dearly).

  • avatar
    msmiles

    If we were really concerned with cleaner air rather than tax money there would be more initiatives to add catalytic converters to lawn mowers and more nuclear power plants.

  • avatar
    GlennS

    They can put the first New England E85 pump in your town, Glenn. I’m all set for now.

    That’s okay, I’ll pass on E85 until it’s more realistic.

    Right now it’s more surreal, than real…
    See: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1629

    “…an E85 Tahoe gets a CAFE rating of 33.3 miles per gallon.”

  • avatar
    dean

    My sister lives in Bristol, England with her husband. They have one car, and neither use it for commuting. He rides his bike to work, she buses in the morning and uses the 1 hour walk home for exercise. If she’s feeling lazy she takes the bus home, but it takes almost as long as walking.

    Neither of them make an astronomical income, but they get 5-6 weeks vacation per year and spend a lot of it the Mediterranean. Pretty good standard of living if you ask me. They live pretty well given the high cost of living.

    The problem in North America is that the vast majority of cities were developed in an age of big cars and dirt-cheap gas. You can’t get away without a car because the entire road network was designed for cars. Low density suburban housing, huge malls in the middle of nowhere, roads without sidewalks so that you couldn’t walk if you wanted to…

    In Europe the cities have been around for centuries, and buildings and urban roads were developed for, at best, horse and buggy travel. Density is high, people generally live close to work and shopping. Cars truly are an option, and you can easily live without one with little impact on your standard of living.

    Because of this, they don’t have the attitude (so prevalent in N.A.) that transit and small cars are for poor people, or losers.

    Whether you believe the peak oil alarmists or not, there is little doubt that ever-increasing gas prices are going to hit the suburbs and exurbs first, and hard.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    msmiles–
    right on. I often forget about lawnmowers and other small engines. I used to use those in arguments the same way i ask for bucket control when people argue for gun control.

    i really should switch buckets to swimming pools, but buckets just sounds more rediculous, which is half the point.

    when everyone stops watching tv and all the golf courses are gone, we can start talking about taxing my car. and no more leaf blowers–either rake or don’t rake–no alternatives.

    and that subaru outback CAFE thing is just rediculous. shouldn’t the environmentalists be glad that someone has finally created a light truck that gets decent gas mileage and doesn’t have super rollover potential?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    “… add catalytic converters to lawnmowers…”

    You can take the fact that this has little government support as validation that there are intelligent people in government.

    Between our various commutes and whatnot, our familiy uses at least 10 to 15 gallons of gas a week in the cars, year-round.

    For our lawn and the other lawn that the kid does for $25/week, our lanwmower uses about 4 gallons of gas over the course of the summer.

    So, why bother screwing around with lawn mowers? Get the big-impact problems out of the way and then move on to the minor irritants.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    The Nissan Armada is an amazing machine. It has a towing capacity of 9,000 pounds. But how many Americans ever really use something such as that? I think what the president should have done was propose an increase in the cost of gas – not diesel – with a 50 cent a gallon “war tax” to achieve his other stated goal: to eliminate the National Debt. He said we have a war. (The economy is dependent on big trucks that run on diesel. If you tag that with an increase, the price of food, and other items that are shipped long distance, goes up and tanks the economy.) Well then, just as in any other war, we should pay for it with some sort of tax. By increasing the price of gas, consumption would theoretically drop – economic theory dictating that as a price goes up, demand drops. That’s not always true, but I think with gasoline, it would work that way. Of course, back in 1980, John B. Anderson wanted to raise the Federal gas tax 50 cents to pay for Social Security; and in 1992, Ross Perot wanted to raise it the same amount, to pay down the National Debt. Neither idea ever saw the light of day. But now, we are at a turning point, as President Bush has finally deduced. It is wryly amusing to me when I hear someone opining how “Bush” (many people don’t use his title in front of it, where I live) has messed things up by, essentially, trying to secure the oil fields in the Mid-East. My amusement comes from the fact that, almost invariably, these people are driving some sort of SUV, which they don’t use to tow as much as a Ski-Doo. As the cartoon character Pogo said, many decades ago, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” And for those who might want to talk about the price of gas going down in “real terms,” I would point to the number of Americans who have been killed or maimed in Iraq, and the innumerable number of Iraqis, also killed or maimed. That’s what I believe economists call “an externality.” I call it a “real cost,” as real as it gets.

  • avatar
    1984

    Think outside the BOX!!! (Cubicle)

    You know how to reduce fuel usage tomorrow without using any alternative fuels?

    - LET ME STAY HOME –

    There is no reason I need to go to a heated and maintained office to use a computer that is completely inferior to my home PC. I have internet… I have a phone… This is the 21st century; I do not need to commute anywhere! If I really do need to travel it would only be 4 times a month instead of 23.

    Give a tax credit to companies that employ workers from their own home. Also the companies would save huge money on office maintenance and utilities (more energy saved).

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    You can take the fact that this has little government support as validation that there are intelligent people in government.

    Not in California…

    http://www.ecofriend.org/entry/california-to-sell-lawnmowers-with-smog-emission-reducing-catalytic-converters/

  • avatar
    Jeffer

    I kept a pick-up insured for many years, just for trips to the hardware store, yard clean-up etc. I believed I couldn’t do without it, until the need to economize forced me to think differently. I now pull a trailer with my RAV 4
    (original 2.0L model) when I need a 4×8 bed. It gets hay for my horse once a month, and has made half a dozen trips over the Kootenay Pass(5800 ft), loaded with camping equipment and a dirtbike.

  • avatar
    ash78

    1984, right on! The combination between telecommuting and businesses moving away from central/urban locations would reduce fuel usage by 20%, no problem.

    The problem with the latter (in most cities that have seen historical suburban flight issues) is that businesses can only afford downtown space. Suburban office space is often 2-3 times the price. And in effort to revitalize these downtown areas, councils often offer tax breaks to companies, which in turn forces millions of people to commute into an outdated, congested grid of surface streets. I hate it, but tolerate it.

    If my work were in one of the many satellite office parks outside the city, we could get 50% more house for the price in those area, plus reduce our overall commuting by 50% easily.

  • avatar
    1984

    It seems so simple and I have been saying it for years! One meeting with Bodman and poof! Some of the problem vaporized!

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    KixStart:
    According to the EPA, running a lawnmower for an hour creates as much pollution as 50 cars driving 20 miles each.

    1000 miles worth of pollution in one hour. that’s horrible.

  • avatar
    msmiles

    “For our lawn and the other lawn that the kid does for $25/week, our lanwmower uses about 4 gallons of gas over the course of the summer.

    So, why bother screwing around with lawn mowers? Get the big-impact problems out of the way and then move on to the minor irritants.”

    are you retarded? its not the amount of gas that is used, its the amount of particulate matter that is put into the atmosphere. Lawn mowers on a hot day do far more damage to air quality in cities than cars. Cars are brilliant, they almost only put out CO2.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    NickNick — source?

  • avatar
    Luther

    Of course the other option I advocate is for the US to go 100% nuclear — ALL power comes from splitting atoms. This would give us such a huge reduction of CO2 emissions, that CAFE standards could roll back to 1969.

    Jonny… You understand universal mass/energy dynamics… Im impressed. Three cheers for Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard. Heck… 10M cheers.

    Before we can even talk about alternatives to hydro carbon oxidation, we need to have nuclear power generation in place FIRST. Only then can Hydrogen power become a commercial reality.

  • avatar
    LK

    I believe the 99% reduction the SUVOA was referring to is in regards to cars – they aren’t including minivans, trucks, SUVs, and so on. It’s a believable number, as the only auto manufacturer to provide decent tow ratings on their cars (sold in the US) is Subaru. As far as the other brands, I’m not entirely sure where the tow ratings are coming from – have they gone down for actual reasons (transmission cooling/strength, braking power, lack of hitch attachment points), or simply because lowering the tow ratings pushed more people into SUVs?

    Obviously one of the big problems is that most cars are now front-wheel-drive, and they simply do not tow as well (or as much) as a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. Plus, nowadays most cars are unibody – which makes it more difficult to find a good hitch attachment point. In fact, many of the hitches for FWD cars actually use the tie-down loops that are used for restraining the vehicle during shipping…and those are not very strong (I’ve pulled a few off attempting to pull FWD cars out of ditches in the winter). 25 years ago most cars had actual frames and were RWD, plus they had solid rear axles – which is also generally stronger and better for towing.

    So, why is the Crown Victoria – which is based on the Panther platform that was developed not long after the evolution of actual panthers – only rated to tow 1500 pounds? I have a tough time believing that the CV couldn’t tow at least 3500 pounds when equipped with a proper transmission cooler. The Buick Roadmaster wagons were rated to tow 5000 pounds at late as 1996, and were the last RWD cars with a proper tow rating.

    The thing is, there’re a lot of people out there who’d love to trade in their SUV or pickup for a vehicle that was able to tow a trailer *and* get decent gas mileage. It wouldn’t be difficult to equip one of the smaller pickups (Tacoma or Ranger-sized) with a 4-cylinder diesel, and get both 30+ mpg on the highway and tow a 5000-pound trailer. Yeah, it wouldn’t be all that quick while towing…but people shouldn’t be driving very fast while towing anyway. Or, at the bare minimum, manufacturers could at least offer the option of a tow package on most cars that includes a hitch and a larger radiator/tranny cooler.

    On the subject of energy use, I’ve never quite understood why so much emphasis is placed on cars – but we seem to ignore the energy used because of how much larger homes have gotten, or the pollution caused by the average 747. There are all sorts of groups up in arms about “gas-guzzlers”, but I don’t hear them complaining about 4,000-square-foot houses and telling people how irresponsible it is to fly on jet aircraft.

    All I know is that my house uses 70% less energy to heat and cool than the average house of the same size, and that I’ve cut my gasoline use by 75% in the past 5 years…while owning a restored old ranch truck that gets less than 5 mpg on a good day (2-3 when towing). If I can make that kind of change while still using that gas-guzzling old truck for my towing needs, I think the average person can probably handle a 20% decrease in 10 years…and I don’t see either SUVs or trucks disappearing in the near future.

    Actually, I’m looking at the numbers and thinking that I’ve reduced my fuel use too much…maybe my next commuter should be a Charger SRT-8. Do they offer a tow package on that?

    As far as mowers, the numbers I’ve seen say that 1 hour of running a mower pollutes as much as between 100 and 1000 miles driven in a late-model car – so what NICKNICK said is reasonable, though on the high end of the numbers I’ve seen. Even worse are 2-stroke snowmobiles, which I see a lot of here in Michigan – they pollute more in 1 hour than the average late-model vehicle does in a year. Of course, we’re not talking about CO2 – just the other pollutants.

    Jonny – I absolutely agree with you on the need for more nuclear power generation – it’s really the *only* short and medium-range solution for our CO2 emissions. I’ve been saying that for years, though whenever you mention ‘nuclear’ a lot of people freak out. I think most folks just don’t understand the science…I think they figure it’s possible to make some sort of magical emission equipment that can take all the CO2 out of car exhaust. Yeah, it’s called not burning fossil fuels….

  • avatar
    svensk

    We got E-85 coming out of our rear end here in MN. Probably because were one of nation’s biggest producers of it. I tell you I have driven by the plants and they STINK! You don’t want these things popping up everywhere trust me. The Ashland Oil refinery doesn’t smell nearly as bad.

  • avatar
    Luther

    though whenever you mention ‘nuclear’ a lot of people freak out.

    I think it because people equate nuclear with a mushroom cloud. It is physically impossible for a nuclear power plant to go boom.

    (Complete oxidation of hydrocarbons yields CO2 and H2O)

  • avatar
    KixStart

    “99% – Cars…” Hmph. Since SUVs were relatively rare 20 years ago – Defore provides a lot more heat than light.

    “… nuclear reactors…” Probably the most tempting terrorist target we could possibly build. I’m not saying don’t pursue a nuclear option but let’s pay close attention to the risks.

    Also, nukes do require a fuel source. If we’re going to go heavily nuclear, we’re probably going to have to commit to a breeder reactor program. More risks. Again, I’m not saying don’t do it…

    “… [nukes as] short term…” I forget the figures but I don’t think it’s possible to propose a nuke and get it on-line in under something approaching 10 years. If we’re going to do this, we should take a look at how these things are done and rationalize the process. But haste makes waste and the risks here are big. We don’t want to screw it up. Frankly, I’d put the Navy in charge. They have a pretty good record. In fact, since we have relatively little use for SSBNs, maybe we should just tie ‘em up at the dock and ship power to shore where needed (as in “On the Beach” by Neville Shute, ca 1963).

    As an IT worker, I’ve seen a lot of creative distributed data processing solutions and that colors my thinking in energy policy. A crash program to install solar heat panels and systems everywhere has less environmental risk and can start coming on-line much, much quicker. A companion crash program to put SPV panels atop every roof in the country also gets underway quickly and has less adverse environmental impact (I think, it may depend on the manufacturing process). If we start that today and start searching for creative ways to store any excess daytime power with a target on-line date of 5 years hence, we might find a lot of benefit to it.

    If we can spread the generation and storage across a large grid, we may be able to reduce the need for large transmission lines. That’s a significant benefit, a reduction in utility capital costs.

  • avatar
    skor

    RE: David Holzman

    “If the US population keeps increasing at the current rate, the equivalent of about four New Jerseys a decade,”

    Good God!! We have to do something! One New Jersey is depressing enough!

    As for global warming,

    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
    — H. L. Mencken

    You can tow a couple of hundred pounds with your bicycle if you use this thing

    http://www.bobtrailers.com/trailers/trailer.php?product_id=10

  • avatar
    philbailey

    Double towing capacity AND fuel economy both at the same time?

    Easy: diesel engines, men, diesel engines.

  • avatar
    Ryan

    I find it almost impossible to take the SUVOA seriously. In fact, I find it impossible to take anyone who uses the following argument seriously:
    http://www.suvoa.com/images/boatus_Sept05.pdf

    If you need a boat (or RV) the size of an apartment to enjoy the great outdoors, do us all a favour and just check into a hotel and if you’re really feeling like helping us all out, go ahead and spend some quality time in your Godzillamobile. In the garage. With the engine running.

    When I was younger, my family and I would go camping every year, usually with a small tent trailer. Either of the ones we had were more than big enough for the four of us, and my parents owned a Hyundai Sonota and an old Caravan at the time. Drove from Toronto as far as Cape Cod, and never had any problems.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Luther — Exactly.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    JL:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/09/AR2005060901774.html

    “Low-horsepower machines account for at least 10 percent of the nation’s smog-forming pollution, which has been linked to respiratory and heart disease, according to the EPA. A single lawnmower emits as much pollution in an hour as 50 cars driving 20 miles.”

    I got my punctuation mixed up and read the “according to the EPA” phrase as though it were leading into the last sentence. My mistake–sorry.

    Here are some others, though:

    http://thinkprogress.org/2006/04/24/bond-lawn-mower/

    “Operating a gas-powered lawnmower for one hour emits as much air pollution as driving a car for 13 hours, according to the California Air Resources Board.”

    In my experience, I can drive about 850 miles in 13 hours.

    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/11/18/MNGME34DPG1.DTL

    The above link references CARB again.

    And not to pick nits, but we don’t get energy just from splitting atoms–in normal chemical reactions, as in ICE or coal plants, the energy is coming from breaking bonds *between* atoms. Only in nuclear plants are they intentionally splitting atoms.

    skor: have you ever used a BOB trailer with a lot of weight in it? I recommend the two-wheeled trailer from Burley. With too much weight in a BOB trailer, if it wants to tip, you tip–end of story. then again, i’m not that big and i find harleys unwieldly while many others don’t. Heavy loads in a Burley aren’t such a problem for me.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Yikes.

    One more reason NOT to mow the lawn…

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    JL: totally. i’m buying a goat.

    Actually, I’m in the process of mounting a reel-type mower (think unmotorized 1950s leave-it-to-beaver) to a bicycle. I can ride faster than I can push, so hopefully this works.

    I’ll probably just end up with a bunch of tire tracks in the yard, patchy grass, uneven heights, and some kind of injury.

  • avatar
    ghillie

    According to the comments above we’re all going to hell in a handbasket – or maybe we’re not….

    GW is only saying what others have been saying for a while – US foreign policy is substantially affected by the need to import oil. Whether or not you think that the Iraq war is about oil (or if you don’t know) it is unarguable that it is costing a really big heap of money. I think it shows that the US may not be able to afford to fight a war or wars to secure foreign oil supplies without seriously affecting its economy. Answer: reduce dependence on foreign oil.

    Will GW’s plan work? Well, I’m not holding my breath. It’s plain from the comments in response to RF’s editorial that most people don’t want to reduce oil consumption and don’t see the need… even if it’s only a minor inconvenience like giving up the gas guzzler that you don’t really need. But then its amazing what sacrifices people will make when it really hits the fan….

    Personally, I think that given the rate that humans are consuming the world’s rescources (especially things like oil) You’d have to be crazy to think that it’s not going to have some impact. The glaciers don’t bother me so much on their own (I’m not into skiing) but extreme weather patterns and effects on food production do.

    One thing I am confident of is that on a worldwide basis competition for available resources will increase (water, food, oil) and that’s going to stress everyone.

  • avatar
    mrdweeb

    I’ll give up my towing capacity when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Mrdweeb — you’ve never seen Red Dawn, have you?

  • avatar
    nino

    Cars are easy targets.

    There are many ways that we can reduce our dependency on foreign oil, some of which have already been posted.

    But guys like Ron Defore do more harm than good in debates like this. My brother-in-law is one of these guys who has a $150,000 boat with $30,000 worth of electronics on it. Per pound, we eat the most expensive flounder on earth and I’m supposed to feel bad if he pays a little more for a tow vehicle? I don’t see how increasing fuel economy standards 20% over the next 10 years will hurt anybody.

    I will say that I am getting tired of the “downsizing of cars has cost lives” myth and of the “Americans want big cars and not crackerboxes” bulls##t. On this very site we’ve argued how much weight cars have gained. Defore comes on and tells us that cars have LOST around 1,000 LBS? It isn’t how much cars weigh, but the DIFFERENCE between what cars weigh that affects your chances in an accident.

    Attitudes need to change. Judging by the way things are around us, I’m not holding out hope that those changes will happen anytime soon.

  • avatar
    GlennS

    It’s plain from the comments in response to RF’s editorial that most people don’t want to reduce oil consumption and don’t see the need…

    Well some don’t. For some of us, driving a Honda is logical way to have a fun-to-drive vehicle, yet conserve some oil.
    Not to mention preserving some of our income as well…

    Snippets from:
    http://www.autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060627/FREE/60626007/1024/LATESTNEWS
    Sitting Pretty – Honda and Toyota are in the driver’s seat if gasoline prices continue to soar

    And some from: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000101&refer=japan&sid=aGUDxfTgbHY4
    Honda Bets Scientists in Secret Engine Lab Can Outsmart Toyota

    “In April [2006], Morgan Stanley Research estimated that gasoline purchases ate up 7.6 percent of median household pretax income, up from 5.3 percent two years ago. Wealthy households can more easily afford expensive fuel, so one of Honda’s best weapons is customers with deep pockets.”

    Don’t know how others feel, but I’d rather stick my pretax income into a retirement account–not in my gas tank.

    “Including its Acura luxury division, Honda has the most affluent U.S. customers of any automaker by far, according to a survey by J.D. Power and Associates.” [April 2005.]

    “The median household income of a Honda [/Acura] buyer is $87,907. About $12,000 in household income separates Honda from GM, which placed last in the income category at $75,888.”

    “Last year, 60 percent of the vehicles sold by GM were light trucks. At Ford, light trucks accounted for two-thirds of sales. Including Mercedes-Benz, 65.3 percent of DaimlerChrysler sales came from light trucks; that rises to 70.3 percent if just the Chrysler group is considered.”

    “By contrast, light trucks accounted for less than half the sales at Honda, Toyota and Nissan.”

    “Honda has always had the best engine technology, and that’s a strength in a high-fuel-price environment,” says Jeffrey Scharf,” of Scharf Investments in CA.

    “Detroit automakers are the most vulnerable to rising gasoline prices, concludes a survey published jointly last year by the University of Michigan’s Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation and the Natural Resources Defense Council.”

    Let’s talk global warming, shall we?
    “Honda had the lowest average emission level among major automakers, including 0.31 gram per mile of smog-forming chemicals such as nitrous oxide. That compared with 0.84 gram for GM.”

    In Connecticut we have to pay to have our cars tested for emmissions every two years. Six months before I traded in my ’96 Civic (with nearly 160,000 miles on it), it hardly moved the needles (if you will) of the machine–and it was that way for each and every category of emissions measured. The results were similar throughout the life of that car.

    “Honda also had the highest average fuel economy, at 29 miles per gallon, compared with 22.9 mpg for GM.” (2003.)

    CAFE shenanigans aside, Honda delivers in real world MPG.

    So you’re right, ghillie, many people don’t see the need to reduce oil consumption (nor emissions), but some do. :-)

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    Whoah – SUVOA breaks all records for misleading and false use of statistics. Man these guys would make a used car dealer ashamed.

    Sure enough their press release did say “99% of car towing capacity lost since the 1970′s”. The implication is that the typical (mean, median) car now tows 1% of what a 70s car die. Huh – if the typical 70′s car towed 6000 lb the current average is 60 lb? Gimme a break.

    What they are saying is so twisted it can’t even be called wrong. They are saying 70% of cars used to be rated to tow 2,100 lb, now only 1% are.

    O.K first 70%-1% is only 69%, not 99%. But the deeper problem is that they are tracking percentage of cars below a limit and stating this percentage as total towing.

    Example say 100 over-weight women average 200, with all 100 of them above 190 lb. After a one year diet the average weight is 180, with only one below 190 lb. The number of 190+ lb women declined from 100 to 1, has the weight of the group declined by 99%?

    How about this quote:
    “”Ironically, the *only* vehicles left that enable people to enjoy the great outdoors — SUVs and pickups — are under attack ” (I added the asteriks)

    Excuse me – “the *only* vehicles? You mean all those times I drove to a trail and hiked, or used a car to haul my bike I wasn’t really enjoying the outdoors? Dang those callous mountain bikers and kayakers will never know what they’re missing pulling a 9000 lb travel trailer.

    How about this?

    “Faced with a shrinking selection of passenger cars with sufficient towing power, America’s outdoor enthusiasts have turned to light trucks for recreation. Light trucks have become workhorses for families heading out on vacations, towing trailers and hauling clothes, mountain bikes, skis, fishing and camping equipment, and other outdoor gear. ”

    So all those F350′s I see are so people can haul clothes and mountain bikes?

    But wait there’s more. Ever notice how giant SUV’s drivers are so slim and fit, while subcompact drivers are all fat slobs?

    “If they tried to do that in high-miles-per-gallon compacts, the better decision probably would be to stay home and add to the pattern of physical inactivity and the obesity epidemic it has spawned. ”

    “the better decision” yeah, if you can’t take an SUV towing a giant trailer (full of those heavy clothes and giant mountain bikes?) then the best decision is to simply get fat.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Actually, I’m looking at the numbers and thinking that I’ve reduced my fuel use too much…maybe my next commuter should be a Charger SRT-8.

    Dear LK,

    You have earned enough Carbon Credits so go ahead and buy the SRT-8. You have my permission.

    Sincerely (I still cant write that without chuckling),
    -Al Gore

  • avatar
    John S

    Back to the lawnmower thing: according to this source from EPA’s own website, it’s more like ONE car driving TWENTY miles.

    http://www.epa.gov/greenacres/wildones/handbk/wo8.html

  • avatar
    msmiles

    Patrick Moore is a champ and going nuclear would do make the petty things we do with car exhaust obsolete:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/14/AR2006041401209_pf.html

    oh, and NickNick, thanks for backing me up, I was waaaay too lazy to look references when I wrote that.

  • avatar

    I’d love for it to happen, but I think its far out to propose that that oil consumption will be flat in a decade. Aiming to reduce it 20% seems ridiculous. Its a goal without a plan imo.

  • avatar
    msmiles

    GlennS-

    what the hell is with the honda ad? Is your company looking for alternative ways of advertising? Did you miss the Jan 11 editorial by our fearless leader RF? Go back and read the message board. Your post certainly is a new kind of advertising but I’m sure few care to read it.

    Everyone here is pretty sold and dedicated to their favorite car company. I’m a ‘yota man myself.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Nuclear fuel can be diverted to make nuclear weapons.

    No it cant. Power plant Uranium is about 4% U-235 where a bomb needs about 70% U-235. Drunk-boy in North Korea tried to start a chain reaction with about 50% U-235 with a huge conventional charge a couple of months back. Didnt quite work and Big Daddy China smacked him down for it. China is not going to let Drunk-boy kill off their best customer.

    Instead of being frightened by the lying, moronic, Government-loving, thieving-socialist, drama-queen, brats (AKA Journalists) in the broadcast media, Google-up Pebble Bed and GenIV Reactors… Quite impressive… There are some REALLY smart people out there (Nuclear Scientists) and they are just never invited to speak on the Idiot Box nor are they ever quoted in Establishment Rags… They just dont provide enough frightening drama to make for great TV. You might want to start here.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor

    And in your “spare” time….

    http://gif.inel.gov/roadmap/pdfs/gen_iv_roadmap.pdf

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    To be kind of honest I wish George was serious about massively “reducin’ towin capacitay”.

    There is nothing worse than being on a twisty back road in my supercharged focus SVT, stuck behind a giant RV with an attached jeep and a boat you could land a F-14 on. Now thats a chronic waste of resources.

  • avatar
    nino

    Nuclear fuel can be diverted to make nuclear weapons.

    No it cant. Power plant Uranium is about 4% U-235 where a bomb needs about 70% U-235.

    How about we use the bomb nukes in powerplants to make electricity?

    I believe there already is a program to do just that.

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    Other points:

    1. Bush is *not* talking about reducing oil use by 20%, he talking about reducing gas use by 20%, oil has many other uses.
    2. US uses about 140 billion gallons of gasoline per year, if we want to cut 20% we need to get down to 112 billion. In last 20 years gas use in US has increased 2% per year, so you’d expect consumption to go up 20%, from 140 to 168 billion per year. Where do we make up the 168 – 112 = 56 billion gallons per year? This would take 84 billion gallons of low energy content, expensive, taxpayer subsidized and mandated ethanol.
    2. Every president since Nixon has pledged “independence” the dependence on imports has increased.
    3. Like the Soviet bloc of yesterday our government is picking the technology (ethanol). Bush will show that Republicans are just as bad at centralized economic planning as Democrats or communists. Pres Carter wasted 10′s of billions on another federal boondoggle, “synthfuels”

  • avatar
    whitenose

    The big problem with nuclear: what do you do with the spent fuel? Whether it’s rods or graphite pebbles, you have a major storage problem. The federal government wants to dump it all at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada (and has wanted to do so for well over ten years, I believe). The Nevadans don’t care for that idea, and people everywhere aren’t thrilled with the idea of trucking it across the country to that site; if the truck has a major accident, you’ve just strewn radioactive waste all over the interstate.

    Farago, it’s deeply silly to take this State of the Union speech seriously. Bush said nothing he hasn’t said before. He’s talked about “oil independence” in the SOTU for 7 straight years now. He could have gotten anything he wanted aside from Social Security changes through Congress for six of those years. Why would he now take action on any of this? He pays it lip service every year, and doesn’t mean a word of it.

    You seem to be under the impression that he’s possessed of some kind of environmentally-senstivie streak in the first place. Only in the fevered minds of Hannity and the other cable news knuckle-draggers is that even possible. Both Bush and Cheney were in the oil business. Their best friends are oilmen. One unstated reason they’re still in Iraq, and one of the reasons we probably went in the first place — is that their oil buddies want it — badly.

    That’s not going to change just because we’re in danger of losing bits of the coastline (like, say, the entirety of Florida) to global warming or our way of life to terrorists. It’s always oil first with Bush/Cheney. It always will be. You and I can’t even comprehend the reasons why they think that way — we’re not sociopathic billionares.

  • avatar
    nino

    The storing of nuclear material is a fact of present life.

    Whether we build nuclear powerplants or not, we do have the very real problem of disposing several thousand nuclear warheads. Also, there are nuclear powerplants in use today.

  • avatar
    msmiles

    “The big problem with nuclear: what do you do with the spent fuel?”

    Waste from nuclear power can be recycled to gleen more power from it. The half life is incredibly short.

    If you want references just google them yourself, I’m sure you didn’t check for references before you jotted that gem down. Again check out my previous link or google the name patrick moore. People are just afraid of the word nuclear, and that is sad.

  • avatar
    nino

    People are just afraid of the word nuclear, and that is sad.

    I’m just afraid on how to pronounce it

    Nu-cue-lar

    Nu-clee-ar

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Waste from nuclear power can be recycled to gleen more power from it. The half life is incredibly short.

    Uh, no.

    That’s why Yucca Mountain is a political hot button, why the breakdown of Chernobyl’s concrete containment coffin is a problem, why people are trying to design a warning label for nukes that can be still understood thousands of years from now, and also why the French were dumping it in the middle of the ocean.

    Someone I know who works in oceanography mentioned that if you sealed and put it in the right place, nuclear waste in the depths of the ocean is actually a pretty safe place as it won’t be interrupted for millennia. Problem is, it’s not politically correct, and so there’s a moratorium on ocean disposal of nuclear waste.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Waste from nuclear power can be recycled to gleen more power from it. The half life is incredibly short.

    Uh, no.

    Uh, Yes.

    Two reasons why they store spent fuel.
    1. The US Federal Mafia made it a crime to recycle spent fuel up until recently. The US Federal Mafia is a crime.
    2. It is cheaper to mine new Uranium than to recycle.

    All that you know about nuclear power that you learned from TV, newspapers, and magazines is wrong. The Gov’t and their Media cant stand the thought of its slaves living well. They will loose power/control over us if we had cheap energy. They gotta keep the masses down and trembling in fear in order to control/rob us.

  • avatar
    Jan Andersson

    Just a word of warning to all small car owners with camping ambitions:

    http://www.zippyvideos.com/6356841764103756/caravan_wm_hi/

  • avatar
    Luther

    How about we use the bomb nukes in powerplants to make electricity?

    Wouldnt that be nice. There is probably enough weapons-grade Uranium floating arount the globe to power the entire earth for a year. It would have to be cut down to work in a reactor.

    and one of the reasons we probably went in the first place — is that their oil buddies want it — badly.

    Actually there are about 4 billion people that want the oil badly. The problem in the Middle East is who gets the oil money… Some murduring religious sociopaths that want to kill me or some sociopathic billionaire that doesnt want to kill me. I see “regime change” in Iran coming up…..

  • avatar
    Luther

    Taxation? You have no idea. When I lived there, they taxed you 17.5% VAT, plus 10% car tax, and the 10% car tax was taxed again at 17.5% VAT!!!! EVERYTHING along the supply line is taxed at 17.5%, not just the end-product.

    The Brits, as well as all Europeans are literally voting themslves to death. The head of the British Mafia Tony “The B” Liar is almost as slick as Klinton.

  • avatar
    JJ

    You can look online and get the price of any British market vehicle “out the door” and compare it to the US. You’ll get a shock.

    Then compare it with the Dutch prices and get an even bigger shock…Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you…COMMUNISM!

    The prices of cars in the Netherlands consist of the out of the factory base price for the car, 19% Added value tax AND, here comes the kicker…45,2% of the base price “BPM” (Tax on cars and motorcycles).

    AND we already have highly progressive income tax up till 52%…but that’s yet another story.

    The Brits, as well as all Europeans are literally voting themslves to death. The head of the British Mafia Tony “The B” Liar is almost as slick as Klinton.

    The problem is that everything the governments takes away from hardworking highly educated people it gives to “poor” people or spoils in retarded projects, or in our case, gives to Spain and Bulgaria.
    While tax breaks etc for the working class (think UAW) mean they actually get a fair deal most of the time. Both these groups like the left wing tree hugger political parties because what’s better than to take from those lucky bastards that could go to college…right? Let’s make sure my neighbour can’t afford a nice car…let’s vote for the “Social” Party.

    Anyway, hydrogen will come and save our bacon, in case it needs to and can be saved.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    the problem is that bush whacked the sleeping person while that person was in the hospital bed, not at home watching comedy central with time well wasted.the only territory where us 2,5 could still get some market pie was big truck market, for the case that truck market could survive thanks to owners low demands for such extras as rattle free body, or refuse-to-die idle sensor or power -windows -not -by- hand -power. truck market is the most vulnerable, and guys at 2.5 have no idea how to make an 25mpg truck. but still the money made on truckers could be poured into the rest of the shrinking industry- like family sedans. today bush doesn`t understand that a patient needs inauculations ,not blood draining or mother`s request to clean the mess in the room. what is left to do? either go japanese way and sweat out those last dollars for creating new dohc vvt ranging from 1,6- 2liters, or go classical yankee style and borrow opel, daewoos and mazdas engines…and later die like some cretateous monster . lunatics@inbox.lv

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Back to the lawnmower thing: according to this source from EPA’s own website, it’s more like ONE car driving TWENTY miles.

    So howzabout putting cats on motorcycles before you get to working on lawnmowers?

  • avatar
    ash78

    Digging a little deeper on why cars don’t do much towing in the US, I’ve found a lot of it has to do with maintaining our 5mph bumper standards. Mounting a rear hitch to the frame apparently bypasses this, so you won’t see many (if any) manufacturers condoning this in the US…while it’s common in Europe.

    Never mind that most car hitches are at least semi-hidden and don’t protrude beyond the bumper…

  • avatar
    chainyanker

    I didn’t watch the speech but I’ve already reduced my gas consumption by 20% by switching to a four-day week. On my extra day off, I rarely leave the house to use any gas.

    After much pestering, the work rules were changed to allow this if a division manager was okay with it. Only our division’s manager has allowed it. Another similarly structured division has not been allowed to only because their manager has indefinitely put off a decision on the matter and stated in a memo that’s all she’s saying and doesn’t want to be bothered about it. I saw the memo and it basically read ‘screw you’.

    Is this a slippery slope for management? Are they so afraid that by allowing this that soon people won’t bother showing up at all? Maybe it’s just the mentality that if a subordinate wants it then it must be bad for me. I know that’s the reason in this case.

    Of the people offered the four-day week, about half did it. Of course the nature of some jobs may not allow this but if this option was given to more people, it could have an immediate impact on fuel consumption.

  • avatar

    Be sure to support the changes the NRC is considering now. They will help us get our head out of the sand in many ways. The US is decades behind the world for many reasons, here are three:
    1. “Not in my backyard”–no community welcomes a plant, though they will not fight coal or natural gas. Luckily, there are several more plants set to go up in the next decade (unfortunately, they are on old site locations instead of new locations due to the cost of “environmental impact” studies that make new sites almost financially impossible.

    2. The NRC regulations are in the stone ages. We are still mandated to use 1960s technology. The French (with a 100% safety record, mind you) are using far better technology right now and offering to use it in the US. The code revisions simply have to go through.

    3. The US will not reprocess. We have to store old and then use virgin fuel or ship the fuel to Europe to be reprocessed. This also has to change.

  • avatar
    airglow

    nyc:
    January 24th, 2007 at 1:32 pm
    Just look at the costs of CO2 reduction as insurance.

    Maybe the earth will stay the same, maybe get a little bit hotter, maybe a lot hotter, maybe even colder. Weather is very difficult to predict. However, the costs could potentially be enormous.

    Why not take out a relatively cheap (compared to the potential costs of climate change) insurance policy by reducing CO2 now?

    Reducing CO2 now is an insanely expensive insurance policy!

    Nibbling at the edges (Kyoto, a few windmills, exempting China, India, etc.) is very expensive and will have very little impact. Even the High Priests of Global Warming admit Kyoto will only have a fraction of a percentage point impact on Global Warming, and cost Hundreds of Billions, if not Trillions of dollars in Global GDP.

    The cats out of the bag, and like most people, I will not voluntarily cut my standard of living in half to “maybe” reduce the impact of global warming by a trivial amount.

    If you want people to make big sacrifices, you better come up with convincing evidence their sacrifices will actually achieve something. Right now, most of the arguments for the modest carbon emission reductions proposed are pretty weak, since everyone agrees their impact on global warming will be negligible.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    I’m kinda annoyed that the media doesn’t give equal weight to those who WANT the globe to warm a tad. Buffalo, NY would be a much better place with a few degrees of warming.

    Plus the flooding along the coasts may increase demand for living here. Then again, maybe not – it IS Buffalo…

    I’ll try to do my part. I liked the above comments regarding lawn mower emissions being many times worse than auto engine emissions. Will my snowblower have the same benefitsemissions?

  • avatar

    whitenose:
    The big problem with nuclear: what do you do with the spent fuel? Whether it’s rods or graphite pebbles, you have a major storage problem. The federal government wants to dump it all at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada (and has wanted to do so for well over ten years, I believe).

    More like 30 years. Maybe even longer. Good points.

  • avatar

    airglow: Reducing CO2 now is an insanely expensive insurance policy!

    On the contrary. For example, I’m going to be insulating the roof of my 1950s era oil-heated house for about five grand. I expect to cut my heating bills, about $4500 a year (this is Boston), in half. Thus, a couple of year payback. There are lots of other similar opportunities for major cuts in energy use, and global warming emissions. Wind power is competitive with fossil fuel around here. Solar electricity will probably be competitive in ten years.

    But nuclear plants make great terrorist targets.

  • avatar

    Jonny Lieberman:
    Of course the other option I advocate is for the US to go 100% nuclear — ALL power comes from splitting atoms. This would give us such a huge reduction of CO2 emissions, that CAFE standards could roll back to 1969.

    Nuclear is good for electric power, which accounts for about 15% of end use energy. Thus, 100% nuclear would not reduce CO2 emissions by much.

    More importantly, there is no magic bullet, although energy efficiency would reduce CO2 emissions more than any other single measure. Anyone who says (name your energy source) will solve the problem doesn’t know what they are talking about.

  • avatar

    Two things: the modern nuclear plant is a wonderful and VERY safe place. There is a level of hysterical suspicion and paranoia put into the safety systems to a degree that would reassure anyone who is willing to give them a read. I have been exposed to the basics of the systems that are used in France…they are brilliant and thorough. I would be happy to have them in my backyard (safety-wise, at least).

    If we move to electric vehicles, how will the government make up all of money that they are currently making by taxing fuel? If we use half of the fuel, where will we make that amount up, tax-wise? Right now, I understand that highways are mainly funded by those buy gas (via taxes), but if we run off electric then EVERYONE pays (or no one pays). This was a minor sidenote when it surfaced with the Honda “Phill” CNG home station. There was no tax being paid to run off the CNG. There are not enough people using it to make an issue of the “Phill,” but if everyone did it (c’mon,Chevy Volt) there might be.

  • avatar
    ash78

    However, don’t forget that nuclear power makes companies like Tesla FAR more feasible, since the resultant improvements in cost-effectiveness and cleanliness would grow tremendously.

    Don’t just think about power consumption in terms of home/business electric usage, think about other opportunities–full electric cars, plug-in hybrids, electric mowers (I already use one)

  • avatar
    nino

    1. “Not in my backyard”–no community welcomes a plant, though they will not fight coal or natural gas. Luckily, there are several more plants set to go up in the next decade (unfortunately, they are on old site locations instead of new locations due to the cost of “environmental impact” studies that make new sites almost financially impossible.

    Actually, this is not so.

    People are not only fighting against nuclear powerplants, but powerplants of ANY KIND, even to replace older powerplants. This also includes powerplants using the wind and powerplants using ocean waves.

    At least this is true of Long Island.

  • avatar
    nino

    On the contrary. For example, I’m going to be insulating the roof of my 1950s era oil-heated house for about five grand. I expect to cut my heating bills, about $4500 a year (this is Boston), in half. Thus, a couple of year payback. There are lots of other similar opportunities for major cuts in energy use, and global warming emissions. Wind power is competitive with fossil fuel around here. Solar electricity will probably be competitive in ten years.

    But nuclear plants make great terrorist targets.

    You are very correct in stating that there are things that we can still do to lessen our use of fossil fuels. Your roof insulating example is right on point.

    However, the “terrorist target” point that you make is an overblown creation of the media. Remember that there are nuclear powerplants that are ALREADY in use in the United States.

  • avatar
    nino

    If we move to electric vehicles, how will the government make up all of money that they are currently making by taxing fuel? If we use half of the fuel, where will we make that amount up, tax-wise? Right now, I understand that highways are mainly funded by those buy gas (via taxes), but if we run off electric then EVERYONE pays (or no one pays). This was a minor sidenote when it surfaced with the Honda “Phill” CNG home station. There was no tax being paid to run off the CNG. There are not enough people using it to make an issue of the “Phill,” but if everyone did it (c’mon,Chevy Volt) there might be.

    This is easy.

    They’ll use the computer in your car and a form of OnStar to tax you based on miles driven.

    There are pilot programs in 16 states that are designed to do just this.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Holzman — what is the other 85% of energy used for if not electricity?

  • avatar
    msmiles

    nuclear power plants as terrorist targets:

    Surprisingly, there are already nuclear power plants in the US. Prime targets seems to be econmic (something about NYC, I think) political (did they ever decide if united 93 was headed for the capitol?) and military (el pentagon). The ability for the safe shut down of power plants and success stories such as three mile island show that they make for really crappy targets. AND, just because people CAN drown should we ban water?

    Not to be cliche but a failure to expand nuclear power, or any right or enterprise in the US means the terrorists environmentalist fear mongers (yes you al gore) have won.

  • avatar
    msmiles

    Holzman-

    anyone who says “Anyone who says (name your energy source) will solve the problem doesn’t know what they are talking about.” doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    “… the 103 nuclear plants operating in the United States effectively avoid the release of 700 million tons of CO2emissions annually — the equivalent of the exhaust from more than 100 million automobiles. Imagine if the ratio of coal to nuclear were reversed so that only 20 percent of our electricity was generated from coal and 60 percent from nuclear. This would go a long way toward cleaning the air and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/14/AR2006041401209_pf.html

  • avatar
    nino

    The development of nuclear power will make other alternative fuels, such as E85 and the production of ethanol from switch grasses, economically feasible.

  • avatar
    nino

    Thinking outside the box a bit:

    I’ve seen ideas for nuclear powered “boilers” for private home heating that in theory, would use a fuel pellet the size of a golf ball and provide heat and domestic hot water for 50 years.

  • avatar
    nino

    Has there been any study to convert missile silos into nuclear powerplants?

    These silos were designed to defeat a direct nuclear hit and are also supposed to able to contain the results of a nuclear missile accidentaly exploding. I also know that the demolition of these silos is very difficult and very expensive.

    Is it possible to use these relics of the Cold War (both the silos and the nuclear warheads) to help us win another “war” today?

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Um… what the hell is a “terrorist” going to do with a nuclear power plant?

    Yell at it?

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I have an idea for what to do with spent neuclear fuel – share it with all the people who support it, they can keep it in containers in their houses.

    Ya know if we just lived a little closer to work and bought cars that get better milage, we would not need to have this scary conversation… but nooooooooooo.

    geesch

  • avatar
    KixStart

    What would a terrorist do with a nuclear power plant?

    Actually, the very best thing, from his perspective, would be to use a nuclear weapon to destroy it. That would lift whatever material was in the reactor core (and outside in the cooling pond, etc) into the atmosphere and let it disperse very widely. There was an article about this in Scientific American a while back.

    Of course, a terroris with a nuclear weapon is going to ruin somebody’s day, even if he doesn’t target a power plant, so let’s not worry about a terrorist with a nuclear weapon.

    So, I imagine a conventially armed terrorist would break in, disable the safety systems, set it on a path to meltdown and then ensure that it was venting to atmosphere.

    Bear in mind that the root word for “terrorist” is “terror.” Anything a terrorist does with a nuclear power plant is going to be turbocharged by our natural (and completely rational) fear of what’s inside a nuclear power plant. Even if he doesn’t kill anyone, if he can release any measurable radiation at all, he’s scored a tremendous psychological victory.

    I’m still not necessarily saying, “don’t build them,” but these suckers had better be SECURE.

    Reprocessing will have to be a fact of life – but the reprocessing cycle had better be SECURE. And safe.

    There are new reactor technologies (haven’t read up on these, lately) and I think we’re going to have to be a little less conservative with our designs and use something new, one of the “inherently safe” technologies (not that there’s any such thing but some are intrinsically better than others).

    The lead time is a killer. Go ahead and start the process, we’ll need them in 2017, but I’d suggest we start in with other alternatives now. Aniother factor is, how many can we build? The guys who build stick-frame houses in the suburbs of San Antonio – they’re not suddenly going to start building nuclear reactors. Is GE or Westinghouse the principal US manufacturer? How many can they be building simultaneously? What new processes are needed to build a pebble-bed or HTGR or whatever reactor? We’re not ramped up for this, that’s for sure. And ramping up quickly, that’s going to lead to mistakes.

    That home reactor pellet? Well, Ford once “designed” a concept car to be powered by a nuclear reactor (the “Nucleon,” about as relevant to the real world as the Chevy “Volt”) and the Air Force, seriously, thought they could build an “atomic bomber.” Even Ford and the Air Force were smart enough to give up on those ideas…

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    My point is: should we stop building airplanes and skyscrapers because of a few assholes?

    If you answer yes, the you-know-whos have won. and you hate freedom.

    Also France — France — gets about 80% of their power from nuclear reactors. They are on their way to 100%.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16554514/

  • avatar
    Luther

    I’m kinda annoyed that the media doesn’t give equal weight to those who WANT the globe to warm a tad.

    Hmm. I think global warming might just be a great idea simply because the Gov’t/news media tells me its not. Imagine 365 day crop-growing season in Nebraska, Siberian/Canadian farm land, Sahara/mid-east/Austrialian rain forests…..

    Um… what the hell is a “terrorist” going to do with a nuclear power plant?

    Yell at it?

    Or what we use to do to cows when we were kids… Tip it over. Dirka-dirka run Achmed dirka-dirka.

    The development of nuclear power will make other alternative fuels, such as E85 and the production of ethanol from switch grasses, economically feasible.

    With nuclear power there is unlimited possibilities. Put a big old pipe into the ocean and SYNTHESIZE hydrocarbons in any flavor you want. Why wait for nature to produce hydrocarbons when man is faster and more efficient. (Nature, like a Gov’t employee, should be fired. Im kidding. Nature isnt that bad.)

    I’ve seen ideas for nuclear powered “boilers” for private home heating that in theory, would use a fuel pellet the size of a golf ball and provide heat and domestic hot water for 50 years.

    Yup. Coming to a Wal-mart near you… Your very own Mr. Fission (Fussion?) for $137.73 after Rollback. It might be awhile since the Gov’t has “laws” against cheap energy.

    So, I imagine a conventially armed terrorist would break in, disable the safety systems, set it on a path to meltdown and then ensure that it was venting to atmosphere.

    Aside from terrorist break in, the rest is a physical impossibility. If you breathe wrong in a nuclear power plant the core goes into irreversable shutdown. The shutdown process cannot be reversed by law… Real law… Physical reality law. As is said “Physics is not just a good idea, its the law”

    Seriously, being scared about what terrorists might do means the terrorists have won. Seriously. The possibility of anyone turning a Boeing airplane into SLAM-ER will always be with us just like someone turning Second Amendment hardware into a murder machine will always be with us. Dont disregard value because of a few murdering freaks.

  • avatar

    Jonny Lieberman
    Um… what the hell is a “terrorist” going to do with a nuclear power plant?
    Yell at it?
    My point is: should we stop building airplanes and skyscrapers because of a few assholes?
    If you answer yes, the you-know-whos have won. and you hate freedom.
    Also France — France — gets about 80% of their power from nuclear reactors. They are on their way to 100%.

    point #1: Fly a plane into it.
    point #2: In principal, of course not. But some things make us far more vulnerable than others. And nuclear plants are a prime example, because of the huge amount of radioactivity they contain. You can make huge areas unlivable, like NYC if the Indian Point reactor were to have a major accident, caused either by an endogenous accident, or sabotage or terrorism.
    point #3: telling me I hate freedom when you don’t know a damn thing about me is, well, I know you’re not dumb, because you have written some very interesting editorials here, so you can fill in the blank. But don’t be easy on yourself.
    point #4: Yes, France gets something like 80% of their electricity from nuclear. That’s ELECTRICITY, not ENERGY. As I said before, electricity constitutes only about 15% (give or take a bit) of the end use energy a typical western country uses.

    And since you mentioned the subject of freedom, it’s worth telling you that France has a government that much more than the US, rams stuff down the throats of the French people. The central government in France has a lot more power than the Federal government here. That’s how they’ve been able to get most of their electricity from nuclear.

    I’m no longer dead set against nuclear power, because I think that what global heating could do to life on earth is a lot scarier than what a few good nuclear accidents could do. But if you’re going to consider nuclear, you have to take into account the risk of an accident (how much, for example, it would cost to insure the nuclear plant against a major accident. Currently, utuility companies do not have to buy the insurance, because the Price Anderson act of sometime in the ’50s exempts them from liability, putting the liability on you and me). There is also the cost of decommissioning, that is, packing the radioactivity up so that humans are safe from it after the plant has lived out its useful life, the cost of the risk of transporting nuclear materials willy-nilly around the country, the cost and health effects of mining, etc.

    An overarching problem with nuclear power, in the words of Edward Teller, is that “in every foolproof system there’s always a fool that’s greater than the proof.”

  • avatar

    msmiles
    Holzman- anyone who says “Anyone who says (name your energy source) will solve the problem doesn’t know what they are talking about.” doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    “… the 103 nuclear plants operating in the United States effectively avoid the release of 700 million tons of CO2emissions annually — the equivalent of the exhaust from more than 100 million automobiles. Imagine if the ratio of coal to nuclear were reversed so that only 20 percent of our electricity was generated from coal and 60 percent from nuclear. This would go a long way toward cleaning the air and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/14/AR2006041401209_pf.html

    It would be a contribution, but if the ratio were reversed we’re still only talking about mitigating a small percent–probably somewhere around 10%–of the US’ contribution to the problem. In other words, what I meant was no single energy source is going to solve even a large fraction of the problem. There is no panacea.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Holzman

    My use of “you hate freedom” was ironic plus some other stuff.

    Again — aside from electricity, what constitutes the other 85% of energy?

  • avatar

    Mostly fossil fuels. Relatively small amounts of solar heating (even here in Massachusetts, a properly designed house doesn’t need a furnace. A combo of passive solar heating–the sun hitting, for example, masonry floors which have a lot of thermal mass–and good insulation can keep a house quite warm in the winter), biofuels, etc. It may seem surprising, but industry uses relatively little electricity.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    I don’t know for sure if this is authoritative:

    Energy Consumption by Source

    A crash program in nuclear could make a big difference. Some of the natural gas used is used to generate electricity – also, perhaps, a little of the oil.

    One of the problems with a nuclear gird is that nukes run best if they run all the time at capacity. They form the “base generating” capacity. On top of them, you need something to handle peaks. I believe natural gas is useful this way, as gas turbines can come on-line in a hurry to meet short-term needs. Diesel can be used the same way. Hydro is also useful this way. Some utilities have built high-low water storage ponds where water is pumped uphill when excess capacity is available on the grid and then run downhill, though a turbine, to meet peak power needs.

    Anyway, without some way to store excess power and release it on demand, a 100% nuclear grid might waste a lot of energy.

  • avatar

    dhthewa,

    If you switched all the electricity production from fossil fuels to nuclear, you’d still only be producing 15% of the energy the consumer uses. (The consumer including businesses and indujstry.)

    The one thing that would change the equation drastically is if plug-in hybrids or battery-electrics became successful and accepted, or if hydrogen became an important transportation fuel. (Transportation accounts for somewhere around 40% of end use energy.)

    But as I said before, a crash program in nuclear would bankrupt the capital markets. Financially, it’s much easier to develop a lot of small scale energy sources. One of the troubles with nuclear–it takes years to get the thigns on line, tying up the money long-term. On the other hand, if Massachusetts’ Cape Wind project gets the go-ahead, it should be up in a coiuple of years. And when rooftop photovoltaics become competitive, homeowners will be able–perhaps with tax credits or some such from the gov–to put them on their roofs.

  • avatar
    Luther

    what I meant was no single energy source is going to solve even a large fraction of the problem. There is no panacea.

    To deny nuclear energy is the panacea is to deny existence exists. Seriously.

    E=MC^2

  • avatar
    nino

    Dave,

    You’re getting hung up on this, “we only use 15% electricity” thing.

    We only use 15% electricity because presently, electricity is NOT economically viable in many cases.

    If the cost of electricity came down, it could then be a viable alternative in home heating and domestic hot water production and it could economically replace LP and natural gas in cooking as just a few examples. Cheap and plentiful electrical energy would make projects like the electrification of Diesel rail lines, economically feasible. A nationwide nuclear electrical grid and cheap electricity, could pave the way the development of coast-to-coast tractor trailer transports that use electricity instead of Diesel for propulsion.

    Cheap electricity would allow municipalities to use electric buses and taxis that would be economically feasible. That would result in lower inner city pollution along with saving oil and gasoline while at the same time not creating an extra burden on the taxpayer.

    Cheap electricity is also the key to producing hydrogen as the next great fuel.

  • avatar
    vento97

    thx_zetec
    Ever notice how giant SUV’s drivers are so slim and fit, while subcompact drivers are all fat slobs?

    You obviously don’t drive on the same roads that I do. From the super-sized examples (of big SUV drivers) that I’ve seen on the roads these days, they’d be hard pressed to fit into ANY subcompact, IMHO…

  • avatar

    I will reiterate (once again)…especially for KixStart…
    The safety systems are fantastically over-engineered feats of paranoia. They are a far cry from being able to allow human intervention create a dangerous position. The sooner we can get new plants (with new safety systems) into place, the safer the US will be (because it will open the door to revamping our old plants).

    Just to make you feel better about terrorism and nuclear power plants, not only are they locked down really well, but suggested systems would require multiple, simultaneously-crashed, perfectly placed planes to disrupt the system. Not only are the critical systems redundant beyond belief (and use a diversity of components), but as soon as a meaningful amount of redundancy in a critical system fails (or a meaningful amount of the redundancy of the safety systems fails) the reactor undergoes an automated shutdown procedure. We should be proud to have such elegant and safe engineering in our country–not be fighting against it!

  • avatar
    i6

    Funny, European drivers don’t seem to have a problem towing things with small cars. Cases in point;

    here and here

    Maybe members of the SUVOA should be making the case for importing more European cars. Or maybe they’d all just like to get up and move out of socialist USofA in favor of Europe?

  • avatar

    nino: You’re getting hung up on this, “we only use 15% electricity” thing.
    We only use 15% electricity because presently, electricity is NOT economically viable in many cases.

    That’s true. And as I said–if you carefully read my post which is two above yours– if electricity becomes a viable way to propel cars, either through battery electrics or plug-in hybrids, electricity could be used for another 30-40% of end use energy.

    But for most uses, electricity is far more expensive than alternatives. Home heating and hot water heating are end uses where electricity is especially expensive compared to the alternatives, and where it will remain so.

    And nuclear electricity is the most expensive of the conventional sources, partly for reasons well described by neilberg a couple of posts up.

    Nino, your harping on cheap electricity reminds me of a joke: A physicist, a chemist, and an economist are stuck on a desert island, with a couple of cans of tuna, and nothing else. The physicist suggests that they break open the cans with some large rocks they find on the beach. “Too messy,” says the chemist. “Lets stick the cans in some tidepools and let them rust open.”
    “We’ll starve waiting for that to happen,” says the economist. “Let us assume we have a can opener…”

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    KixStart:

    Financial disincentives to buy a car do not lower living standards, they change lifestyles. If I wasn’t spending wads of cash on cars every year, I ‘d have more money for concerts, CDs, clothes, computers, dinner out…

    Not sure I get you on this.

    Have you considered that time is money? If it takes you longer to get to and from work because the bus doesn’t go there and you are forced to walk, then you are losing time. Time that could be spent working. Or with your family. Or doing errands, housework, etc.

    Those things need to be done anyhow. So you do them in your further limited remaining free-time, making less time available for those dinners out or concerts…

    Today’s newspaper carries an aritlce that says, effectively, all the glaciers in the Alps will be gone in 50 years. There’s no responsible scientific dissent. Given the retreat in glacial and polar ice that has already been recorded, I think we’re well past the point of no return, so we might as well relax and enjoy it. I can simply amuse myself from here on out by checking to see how bad conditions get. As I’m currently in my 50’s, I don’t think I’ll live long enough to see Global Warming end Western Civilization but, then again, maybe I will.

    You are willing to take a forward-looking newspaper article as fact? Why? When was the last time your weatherman was accurate in predicting the weather? It was supposed to rain here today. Still sunny…

  • avatar
    msmiles

    i6… clearly this discussion isn’t about towing, jeez.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Good point, M!

    I had a station wagon once. Never towed anything with it.

    I own a Prius now. The only thing I haul around is junk from Home Depot and my own fat ass. No need for a hitch.

    Yet. :)

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    David Holzman:

    …and when rooftop photovoltaics become competitive, homeowners will be able–perhaps with tax credits or some such from the gov–to put them on their roofs.

    You mean “if” they become competitive.

    Harborfreight sells solar panels, batteries, all that stuff. But the power they can generate is so small, you need a lot of hours of sunlight (or more panels) to power anything more than a few landscape lights with them.

    http://search.harborfreight.com/cpisearch/web/search.do?keyword=solar+panel

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Don’t get me wrong; I believe that solar will become more and more efficient, and that battery capacity will continue to increase.

    But “competitive” when compared with other sources of energy? In sunny localities, maybe.

    But they’re expensive. They can be damaged by hail, snow, ice, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Most of the US is subject to one or more of these things at some time or another.

    Additionally, PV systems must be “all clear” in order to generate power. If something the size of your hand covers one panel, all panels stop generating electricity.

    So “competitive?” No, absolutely not.

    Will I get such a system? Yes, I’d like to. I live in Florida and would like to take advantage of our many hours of sunshine each day…

    But (I said this already) I live in Florida. Any system I get must be able to be weatherproofed and/or stored away in bad weather.

  • avatar

    ZoomZoom: Don”t get me wrong; I believe that solar will become more and more efficient, and that battery capacity will continue to increase.
    But “”competitive”” when compared with other sources of energy? In sunny localities, maybe.
    But they”re expensive. They can be damaged by hail, snow, ice, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Most of the US is subject to one or more of these things at some time or another.
    Additionally, PV systems must be “”all clear”” in order to generate power. If something the size of your hand covers one panel, all panels stop generating electricity.

    The competitiveness of PVs depends not only on the amount of sunlight, but on the cost of electricity. Here in Massachusetts where electricity costs nearly three times as much as in, say, Wash. DC (where I used to live), PVs will be competitive as soon as they are competitive anywhere in the US.

    You really do live in Florida. If you lived up here, you would realize snow doesn’t pose a hazard to PVs. Tornados and hurricanes, if powerful enough, can destroy anything in their path, and I would worry about my roof and my windows before my PVs. As for hail, yeah, hail big enough to damage your car’s sheet metal might damage a PV system. But I have never had hail damage to my car. And as for “all clear,” I think that’s baloney. I have a friend with a PV system on his roof in a leafy section of Arlington VA. No problems ever.

  • avatar
    Luther

    With cheap, clean nuclear power the cost of producing everything/anything will plummet like Tony Romo in a playoff game. Imagine a $5K Chrysler Sebring (New. Not one year old), Jonny might just go out and buy one.

    It is vitally important that you get your info about nuclear science from Scientists and not from know-nothing Journalists or Hollywood fools. Your standard of living depends on it.

    i6… A flat-bed Duck with a 5th wheel… NOW ive seen everything. Thanks.

  • avatar

    Luther,

    You find some of that cheap, clean nuclear power and I’ll put all my cash into it.

    By the way, one of my former professors, a nuclear scientist, is the current head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. One friend of mine is an eminent nuclear scientist who taught for years at the University of Washington. And I’ve interviewed some nuclear scientists at MIT. They would all be very interested in that cheap, clean nuclear power, too.

  • avatar
    msmiles

    Nuclear power is almost the same price as coal fired electric at a little over 2 cents/Kwatthr. And not that I doubt your friends, but usually, those nuclear scientists are called physists. One friend of mine is completely made up.

  • avatar
    nino

    Nino, your harping on cheap electricity reminds me of a joke: A physicist, a chemist, and an economist are stuck on a desert island, with a couple of cans of tuna, and nothing else. The physicist suggests that they break open the cans with some large rocks they find on the beach. “Too messy,” says the chemist. “Lets stick the cans in some tidepools and let them rust open.”
    “We’ll starve waiting for that to happen,” says the economist. “Let us assume we have a can opener…”

    Believe me, despite our conversations here, I’m very much the realist. I know ain’t nutin’ gonna happen unless somebody gets PAID.

    The unfortunate fact is that despite all our talk, we won’t see any of these solutions contribute in any significant way in most of our lifetimes.

  • avatar

    msmiles, you can go look up the head of the AAAS if you want. He got his PhD in plasma physics. The other guy is a nuclear physicist. But some of my interviewees are nuclear engineers. Pardon me for the loose terminology. And neither coal nor nuclear are 2c/kwh. If they were, loads of new nuclear plants would be going up all over the country. I don’t think even natural gas fired electricity is that cheap.

    nino, I understand your pessimism. But there are some good examples of what can be done. 80% of Denmark’s electricity comes from wind. Within several years, probably about 10% of Mass’ electricity will come from wind. Interestingly, Texas has the most wind power of any state, incredibly oddly to my mind thanks to the efforts of our current president when he was governor of that state. I don’t pretend to know whether enough of this will go up quickly enough to make a difference or not.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Nuclear power has its drawbacks, just like coal. Of course, the cost problem with nuclear in this country is our NIMBY friendly legal system and bad PR from Oprafied media hysterics.

    In France, where environmental lawsuits have the same weight as a sunken Greenpeace ship, nuclear is more cost competitive.

    There’s a lot of interesting engineering going on in the nuke industry – from plants whose fuel cannot meltdown to on site waste storage for hundreds of years.

    Of course, we could just mine and burn more coal – like we’ve been doing. I wouldn’t be surprised if coal mining execs secretly donated to various anti-nuke enviro groups.

  • avatar
    son of Bob Lutz

    There are a few misconceptions that I feel need to be cleared up.

    1. The term “pollution” is thrown around without much thought. There are many different pollutants and their consequences vary greatly. Global warming is unrelated to the consideration of mandating catalytic converters on lawn equipment. The issue is photochemical smog which occurs when nitrogen oxides and unburned hydrocarbons interact (but don’t specifically react) to produce ground-level ozone. Smog-forming emissions from vehicle engines have been reduced to such an extent that lawnmower engines are currently a major source. Global warming is caused by buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere and CO2 emissions CANNOT be eliminated when using a hydrocarbon fuel such as gasoline.

    2. Nuclear energy is handicapped by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which does not allow reprocessing of spent fuel. Reprocessed fuel CAN be used for weaponry, but it also can increase total energy obtained from a given mass of fuel and decrease mass of nuclear waste that must be disposed.

    3. The promise made in the SOTU (I don’t have the text in front of me, sorry) was a 20% decrease in oil consumption from the level PROJECTED for 2010. By those estimates, maintaining the current rate of consumption would satisfy the promise. Although holding steady is better than increasing consumption, it’s a disingenuous promise.

  • avatar
    allen5h

    SUVOA President Barry W. McCahill was quoted:

    “The only vehicles left that enable people to enjoy the great outdoors- SUVs and pickups- are under attack and could also lose towing capacity. Nobody intended to kill off the station wagon that was the mainstay for family transportation and recreation. But it happened.”

    The demise of the station wagons has been very interesting to observe.

    Just yesterday I drove behind a late model Toyota Camry station wagon, and on two occassions in the past few years I have seen two older model Honda Accord station wagons in Kentucky. Both of these vehicles appeared to be the “American sized” version wagons of these sedans, with the driver on the left (correct for NA) side of the vehicle.

    Where are these station wagons comming from?

    Also, two summers ago I saw a Subaru Outback station wagon, white, normal size to the NA version, but with the driver in the wrong side. Where would this come from?

    Just wondering…

  • avatar

    allen5h: I have seen two older model Honda Accord station wagons in Kentucky. …
    Where are these station wagons comming from?

    Honda and Toyota build wagon versions of the Accord and Camry in the late 80s/early 90s. You could also get wagon versions of the Civic and Corolla at various times.

    Also, two summers ago I saw a Subaru Outback station wagon, white, normal size to the NA version, but with the driver in the wrong side. Where would this come from?

    Subaru build a limited number of Legacy wagons with right hand drive for use by rural mail carriers, as an alternative to the RHD Jeeps many of them had used for years.

  • avatar

    Did you know that CO2 emissions in New Zealand have to be lowered in order to conform to the Kyoto protocol?

    Did you know that in order to do so they looking to adjust their LIVESTOCK emissions because they account for 90% of its methane emissions (and 50% of its total greenhouse gas emissions)?

    Lesson: Don’t count on reducing greenhouse gases by reverting to using animal labor (that, and I found that fact too odd to not share). Towing with our big trucks may be helping our CO2 levels. :)

  • avatar
    Luther

    Business opportunity: Livestock Catalytic Converters.

    New Zealand livestock will sound like pimped Honda Civics.

    Kyoto treaty is about human population control… Is it not obvious? The new Great Leap Forward scheme.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    “99% of Car Towing Capacity Lost Since 1970s?”

    Gee, you think that’s maybe because *towing things* has become less prevalent as a national pastime since the ’70s?

    Besides, back then, you were lucky to get 200 hp in a new car. 150 was the most you could expect from a typical V8. Today’s 21/28 MPG Toyota RAV4 V6 boasts 268 horses and tows 3,500 lbs.

    Much of the SUVOA’s figure also stems from the fact that most cars were V8-powered and RWD in the ’70s. Consumers pushed carmakers in the opposite direction, because FWD cars are more efficient with cabin and cargo space, and because they didn’t want V8 fuel costs. Sounds to me like the free market told automakers what it wanted.

    I don’t buy the “20 in 10″ schtick, either, but the SUVAO’s stance sounds like that of a spoiled child: “But we need our SUVs because we have to tow our toys!” Sorry, folks, but we’ve got bigger problems these days.

  • avatar

    Regarding wagons, I think they currently make Honda and Toyota wagons in or at least for Europe.

  • avatar
    moto

    Wow, nuclear discussion on a car blog.

    I know it’s beyond neanderthal neocon comprehension, but I personally agree with our cousins in France: if you’re operating dozens of nuclear sites, it’s stupid to stir up a hornet’s nest of would-be terrorists. Right or wrong, it seems France is hampered by their dependence on nuclear power, just as the good ol’ USA is hampered by out dependence on oil. Neither energy policy is a good solution.

    At the present rate of energy consumption, China will use up all their coal in a flash and then the next world superpower will be Denmark, because they build kickass wind turbines.

    As for Bush: please get yourself elected as president of Iraq if you want to help them seek liberty and freedom. With Cheney making all national decisions for the benefit of Halliburton and Exxon and you with your finger up your bum, how foolish the American people were to think you worked for us. Take a long walk on a short dock.

  • avatar
    moto

    oh, yeah, about towing vehicles:

    the big 2.5 do not respond the “the market”. people buy what they can afford at their local dealer. if a utility vehicle is cheaper than a wagon, that’s what they’ll buy. this is why US automakers have no diversity of vehicles.

    American automakers don’t care about niche markets, because they’ve dumbed down consumers here to a Happy Meal mentality. choose one of 4 body styles, and pick size M, L, XL, or XXL. done. next?

    If we Americans knew a damn thing about cars, they’d petition the federal goverment to madate some real standards instead of allowing Ethanol lobbyists to do it for them.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    What a vigorous debate! It’s been almost 30 years since Al Gore and Amory Louvins got me started in this energy/environment puzzle. Then, it was a far-out, fringey subject. Now, it’s a topic of everyday conversation. Why, even Bush has come not quite all the way back to his campaign stance of 2000, when he promised to regulate carbon emissions!

    I’m a speed reader, but I haven’t had time to read more than half this discussion. Breifly, because I respect your time, here’s three points I didn’t see covered.

    1) McCahill, that’s a familiar name. Look at some way-back issues of the “Mechanix”-style mags of the ’50s and ’60s and you’ll see “Uncle” Tom McCahill as the leading byline reviewing Detroit iron, plus a few new British and German sports cars. Is this SUV spokesman of the same name his son, or his grandson?

    2) Nuke power may be spotless on the CO2 charts, but it’s a mistaken path. It’s always more expensive than demand-side conservation measures (how about outlawing the black roofing shingle, in favor of lighter colors? Down goes summertime peak electrical consumption in the Southwest.) But consider the worst aspect of nuclear power– the fuel cycle. Every pound of spent nuclear fuel is a curse on future generations who will have to store it or dispose of it somehow, while keeping all of it out of the air the water, not to mention WMDs. In a hundred years or a thousand, that waste remains lethal, but the electricity it generated is gone with the wind. For that reason, I’d prefer coal-generated power, because it makes us pay most of the pollution price in our own time.

    3) The solutions to the trailer towing problem are easier and more immediate than the answers to the global climate change predicament. When I want comfy camping, I roll out my Scamp fiberglass trailer and hitch it up. It sleeps and feeds four in it’s 16-foot interior. With few options (no bathroom), it weighs and even ton. My Forester finds that a comfortable load, never straining, bogging down or overheating as it cruises the open road at 18 mpg. It runs about the same whether I’m on the Eastern Colorado plains or the Western Colorado Rockies: 60 mph is easy, 70 is harder, and any sort of hill requires a downshift. The trailer has brakes, and it’s egg shape is unaffected by sidewinds. Anyone can afford a 20-year-old model like mine, which cost $2,500.

    For any bigger trailer, I’d need more car. Any smaller trailer wasn’t worth the trouble of towing it, IMO. So I feel I’ve found the perfect compromise, whether or not it would qualify for Mr. McCahill’s list.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Luther: You are right in more ways than one.

    I don’t mean to quote Metallica, but it’s Sad but True


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