Posts By: SXL

By on May 9, 2008

6a00e54ef6fd3b883400e54f8b41758834-800wi.jpgWho do you think is doing the greatest damage to the US dollar? The Chinese? The European Union? OPEC? Brace yourself – it's you, every time you press the gas pedal on your gas-guzzler. With today's oil prices, US oil imports represent $1.5b per day leaving the country — make that $548bn per year. "This represents the single largest contribution to America's balance-of-payments deficit, and is a leading cause for the dollar's ongoing drop in value," writes Michael T Klare, author of "Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet," over at Tomdispatch.com. Hindsight is 20/20, but things would have been a lot different if the automakers had realized where things were headed, when things were headed that way. Meanwhile, motorists unlucky enough to be stuck with land barges are seeing second-hand values take a torpedo in the bow. Yes – gripe, gripe, gripe. But this is serious. If T. Boone Pickens is right, the price of oil is going Polar North, which means the dollar is headed for the antipodes. Klare thinks the yearly US tab for gas could easily reach three quarters of a trillion dollars soon. Do the patriotic thing. Go easy on the pedal, will you?

By on May 6, 2008

g711526.jpgA while ago, James Fallows at the Atlantic Monthly asked readers to submit suggestions for "the stupidest policy ever." He rigged the deck by taking The Gulf of Tonkin resolution off the table, but the winner, by a landslide, is the blind support our "independent" politicians gave to the bio-ethanol scam. (And you're the victim.) The mag gave two of the winner's proponents, Justin Cohen and his father Reuben, special mention for their comprehensive summation of all that's wrong with bio-ethanol. "I think bi-partisan support for ethanol is more stupid [than the McCain-Clinton 'gas tax holiday' plan], because it's actually harmful and because it not only panders to the public… worse it panders to a special interest group (Midwest farmers and their regional politicians). It's harmful because: 1) it helped to catalyze higher levels of food inflation, 2) it consumes as much energy to make and distribute as it provides, 3) it deflects attention from developing/trying sound policies to enhance our energy security, 4) it didn't allow for removal of taxes on the import of truly energy efficient ethanol produced in Brazil from sugar, and 5) it's a such an extreme example of government dysfunctionality it causes people like me to become truly disillusioned with the political process."

By on February 20, 2008

smart-car.jpgPorsche reckons their UK sales are threatened by London's congestion charge hike, which will add £4k to the annual cost of Cap City Porker ownership. The Times Online reports that the Sultans of Stuttgart are giving the Mayor of London 14 days to respond to their protest before applying for a judicial review. Porsche argues that the extra congestion charge for cars in their emissions bracket is patently unfair, and not just to rich Yuppies. "Thousands of car owners driving a huge range of cars will be hit by a disproportionate tax," argues Andy Goss, managing director of Porsche Cars GB. "[It's]is clear will have a very limited effect on CO2 emissions." While not specifically playing the class warfare card, Mayor Livingston's office responded with predictable populist pap, weighing-in against the "tiny minority" driving high CO2 emitting automobiles in London. "No-one is allowed to throw their rubbish in the street and Porsche should not be allowed to impose gas-guzzling, polluting cars on Londoners who do not want them." So, off to the Old Bailey then…

By on February 13, 2008

pumpphoto.jpgPoliticians around the world were up against the wall. The World Trade Organization (WTO) was slowly picking away at all their fancy ways of sidetracking public funds into hopelessly anachronistic and inefficient agricultural subsidies. And the agribusiness beats the mil/industrial complex when it comes to lobbying skills. Even French politicians, famous for ignoring the plight of their people, tremble at the thought of another tractor phalanx of mad farmers pulling up in front of the National Assembly and launching putrid brie at their doorstep. Enter Peak Oil.

By on December 6, 2007

toyota_robot_1.jpgWhile The Big 2.8 keep playing "Crisis? What Crisis? Oh THAT crisis," Toyota's taking some time off (as if) to muck about with robots. Toyota's just announced that two of its new Toyota Partner Robots will hit the market in 2010. As The International Herald Tribune reports, one 'bot plays Sir Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" on a violin (when it can play "A Lark Ascending," give us a call). The other 'bot is Segway's worst nightmare. Weighing in at 150kgs., Mobility Robot (MR) can negotiate stairs, surmount 10 degree gradients and travel 20km at a rate of 6km/h. It's (he's?) also capable of avoiding obstacles and transporting its owner autonomously. (That's Toyota-speak for "getting you back from the pub while you're too drunk to know what you're doing.") And when you feel like using the legs that God gave you, Mr. MR will be your personal porter, following you like a dog. (Which is God spelled backwards.) Next week, Honda's takes the wraps of the latest version of Asimo. While both automakers claim 'bot-making is a logical outgrowth of their car-building 'bots, we reckon they need to make them mightier still. Meanwhile, GM's still building the first ever G6.

By on April 26, 2007

060206-london-observations-2-thumb.jpgWarren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway holding group, is the world’s second-richest human. Buffett’s no stranger to the transportation sector, having mopped up profits with Geico, Forest River (RV’s), McLane Company (foodstuff distribution) and the XTRA Corporation (semi-trailer renting and leasing). Berkshire Hathaway recently took a ten percent stake in the railroad company Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. Warren Buffett’s seen the future.  

By on April 13, 2007

tesla2.jpgWord, Excel, Acrobat Reader, Photoshop, Powerpoint… The computer programs you depend on are filled with bloat: unused features that hog your hard disk, crowd the CPU and drain your laptop’s battery– without adding to the action on the screen. Ditto SUVs. They are extraordinarily capable vehicles whose unused features guzzle gas, add weight and drain oil from the ground. In both cases, slimming down has few downsides– save the psychological. And therein lies the tale. 

By on February 18, 2007

rekord222.jpgOur first car was a navy blue Opel Kadett. My father was off to sea; my mother took us on an inaugural daytrip. When my father returned to the Norwegian mainland, he dismissed the car as too small and upgraded to an Opel Kapitän. This was followed at short intervals by an Opel Rekord and an Opel Admiral. (The hierarchical naming scheme of Opel marketing in the 60s-70s was pretty obvious.) I’m sure my father would have moved to a Senator with time– but he was ready for a Mercedes. Once he’d switched allegiances, he never looked back.

By on December 17, 2006

debrink_oosterwolde222.jpgIn the late 70s, Dutch traffic planner Hans Monderman experienced the kind of insight that gets people sent to an asylum. ”Let’s eliminate all traffic signals and signs and remove the divisions between the road and sidewalk where cars and people interact. There will be fewer accidents and traffic flow will improve.” Monderman’s approach seemed completely radical: roads that seem dangerous are safer than roads that seem safe. The concept was a smack in the face of convention.

By on December 4, 2006

hellsbells001.jpgWhen the new[ish] Chevrolet Tahoe SUV was released, reporters asked GM Car Czar Bob Lutz whether rising gas prices would discourage SUV buyers from jumping into The General’s gas-guzzling truck. ”Rich people don’t care about gas prices,” Lutz remarked. Yes well, it’s time for Maximum Bob to take a class in Remedial Marketing. It’s a five minute course that starts with the Bell Curve. 

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