By on December 30, 2006

0512_in_gear_01_900222.jpgThere I was, flying down a German autobahn in a VW Phaeton, bumping up against the car’s electronic limiter. I glanced at the rear view mirror and moved over. A modified M5 streaked by at over 180mph. I say modified because BMW is part of a “gentleman’s agreement” hammered out in the 70’s, when Germany’s Green Party wanted to impose speed limits on de-restricted autobahns. Mercedes, BMW and Audi all agreed to limit their products’ top speed to 155mph. The idea that other countries could build automobiles capable of cresting 250kph somehow escaped everyone’s attention. As, eventually, did the entire speed limit issue.

At the time of the agreement, the majority of the automobiles plying Germany’s highways weren’t particularly clean or mind-numbingly fast. Some thirty years later, the tailpipe emissions produced by Germany’s increasingly modern automotive fleet are virtually sterile. And there’s hardly a new vehicle sold that can’t comfortably cruise well over 100mph— from diesel delivery vans to four-cylinder passenger cars. And so they do. At the same time, BMW, Mercedes and Audi all build mainstream models that could easily exceed their 155mph e-limit. And so they do, once a friendly tuner remaps their ECU. (FYI: Porsche never joined Club 155.) Clearly, German gentlemen kick ass.

Today’s German greens are also in butt kicking mode. Now that cars no longer belch significant amounts of harmful pollutants into the atmosphere, environmentalists are taking a new angle of attack: carbon dioxide. They claim that automotive CO2 emissions help reduce the Earth’s natural cooling, which causes global warming. This concern has resurrected the Green Party’s attack on automobiles in the same way that studies on the harmful effects of second hand smoke on non-smokers reignited the anti-smoking movement. Throughout the European Union (EU), member states are busy imposing legislative measures designed to restrict vehicular CO2.

The greens also have a new champion: Andreas Troge. The President of Germany’s Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) is a long time auto industry critic. For example, at a 2004 conference on environmental sustainability, Troge lambasted carmakers for using technological innovation to increase engine performance, rather than reduce fuel consumption. Last Thursday, Troge called for a 75mph speed limit on all German autobahns. He declared that the move would reduce Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent.   

The speed limit proposal is best seen within a much wider and more vigorous debate. The EU is currently trying to “convince” Germany to radically reduce its CO2 emissions. Specifically, the EU wants the German federal government to impose tougher CO2 restrictions on its power providers. Germany’s four largest utilities have rebelled, warning that any such concession will reduce energy supplies, eliminate jobs and increase prices– which are already the highest in Europe. Whether the autobahn speed limit will be a successful part of a growing environmental movement or nothing more than a doomed sideshow remains to be seen.

I’d bet on the sideshow. No less a personage than Germany Transport Minister immediately dismissed the 75mph speed limit [almost] out of hand. “I am committed to a reduction in emissions,” Wolfgang Tiefensee proclaimed. “But a general speed limit on open stretches of road does not make sense.” Tiefensee and his supporters assert that autobahns are environmentally irrelevant; they account for just two percent of German roadways. Defenders of the status quo also maintain that derestricted autobahns help the national automobile industry develop better and safer automobiles.

While the exact correlation between allowing 100mph+ driving on long straight roads and increased automotive safety may be a bit unclear, the underlying sentiment is not. Even without considering the merits of the safety argument, the fact that such a counter-intuitive justification can be mentioned in public without widespread condemnation highlights the enormous cultural importance of Germany’s derestricted autobahns. In other words, planet, schmanet. Don’t EU be messing with our autobahns.

Remember: Germans are a people who won’t jaywalk– even if there isn’t a car anywhere within sight. They can’t run their washing machines or wash their car on a Sunday– in case the noise disturbs their neighbors. In the main, they like rules. But they also like their autobahns. And that's because the roads liberate them from stifling peer pressure and governmental dictat, giving them a rare chance to explore and experience their individuality. Not to put too fine a point on it, German drivers revel in the sheer joy of accelerative release. The derestricted autobahn network is a precious bastion against soulless conformity.

That will one day fall victim to political conformity. While environmentalism is not likely to slow down German drivers, safety legislation will. The European Union is about to harmonize drivers’ license requirements across national boundaries. It’s only a matter of time before Brussels standardizes Union-wide road safety regulations. Reigning-in Germany’s derestricted autobahns may be the last step in this process, but it will also be one of the most significant. And regrettable.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

94 Comments on “German Speed Limits: I Can’t Drive 155...”


  • avatar
    ref

    When my driving teacher let me go on the Autobahn for the first time, I drove 130kph – the recommended limit. He looked at me and said, “Now get it on, this car does much more than that.” Sounds a bit careless, but he explained that I certainly won’t give a damn about that limit once I get my licence, so he wanted to give me at least some experience about driving at that sort of speed.

    By the way, statistics indicate that the Autobahn isn’t any more dangerous than highways in other countries:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road-traffic_safety#Motorway

  • avatar
    UnclePete

    Some of my happiest motorhead moments have been times when I’ve been able to hammer along over the ton on the derestricted Autobahn. I hope to buy my next BMW through European Delivery to experience it with my own car at least once.

    Another plus is the structure and respect for basic road rules that German drivers have that makes the Autobahn a joy. That lack of basic road skills (keep to the right except to pass, yielding, etc.) make US roads (and particulary New England) roads a nightmare.

  • avatar
    kablamo

    I think this “issue” is more about pansies trying to use environmentalism to reduce autobahn speeds. I consider myself somewhat of an environmentalist, and believe in minimizing CO2 emissions; yet I fail to see how limiting speeds would reduce by 30% total emissions (even just total vehicle emissions).

    Limiting (or further taxing) engine displacement seems like a much more effective solution – speeds wouldn’t necessarily be kept down, but fuel usage (and therefore CO2) would be reduced at all times of operation, not just on…what…2% of roads?

  • avatar
    Gottleib

    After the initial thrill of exceeding 100mph on the Autobahn most of the time I drove a comfortable 85-90mph. In fact after living in a Germany for the first year of my three tour of duty there, I traded my Porsche for a Citroen. I learned that comfort and speed is much more enjoyable than raw speed. Sure the Porsche was fun, but that Citroen DS 21 Pallas was literally like riding on a cloud and it would do a comfortable 90mph all day with its 2.3 liter four cylinder. I would a buy a Citroen C6 if they sold them here in the US.

    The German drivers as mentioned above also are very predictable and rule abiding when driving. That made driving much safer and is probably the main reason that the higher speeds are acceptable in Germany where here in the US it would be a disaster the way people drive with one hand on the wheel and the cell phone to their ear.

    As far as the emmission of CO2 damaging the planet, I think there needs to be some real scientific data and study before we know the proper course or action. Remember in the 1970s the world population was predicted to exceed the food production capabilites of the planet resulting in mass starvation. Last time I looked we had a problem with obesity not scarcity.
    Happy New Year .

  • avatar
    carguy

    I agree with UnclePete, one of the great joys of the Autobahn is not only the speed but the standard of driving. Keeping right when not overtaking, no cell phone usage, no eating, keeping an adequate distance and understanding the basics of on-ramp merging. That is also most likely the cause for their lower fatality rate. I wish US drivers got the same divers education – it would make driving over here a lot more enjoyable.

  • avatar

    Thanks to ref for the very interesting Wikipedia citation. In my experience, people who argue about the impact of highway speed limits on safety in the US focus on the overall death toll, not the impact on the highway death toll, thus confusing the issue. Has anyone seen figures for the US comparing highway death tolls with speed limits?

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    As an infantry grunt in Germany in the late 80’s, I at first thought the autobahn reckless. Careful observation of other motorists and my German girlfriend showed otherwise.

    Certain subtle anecdotes…

    Driving in the center lane, my gal showed me how every other driver would ‘stagger’ a little to the right or left of center in order to show a brake light of the car two in front.
    Freezing my a** off during a helicopter ride and looking down on the autobahn’s 3 lanes, I noted the mechanical precision with which ‘drive-right/pass-left’ was universally applied by the hundreds of cars below… It was choreography by a car-god.

  • avatar
    biturbo

    Gottleib said “I traded my Porsche for a Citroen”.

    In Germany!

    That’s bad, wrong, unheard of, ridiculous and totally unacceptable in a car-nuts forum :-)

  • avatar
    rashakor

    Biturbo,

    What wrong with Citroen and French cars in general? express yourself…

    Car nutz generally dig cars with personality; quirkyness is a plus, and performance definitively a nice thing…
    French cars have always been that.
    US people have still their minds clouded by the Renault 5 (Le car of the 80’s).

    On a funny note: Citröen is a German name. =)

  • avatar
    rubenyc

    This has been all over the news, but the fact of the matter is there’s a whole lot of environmentalists in Germany who think that not driving cars fast will save the planet, and they’re continuously at it. This is just the last in a long string of attempts to slow German drivers down.

    And a new speed limit will slow them down – to a halt. Lower speed limits equal less efficient road use equals more traffic jams. And what car, oh Green Party, pollutes more than any other? That’s right: an idling car.

    In slow traffic jams the average MPG is about 7 – or about twice as bad as what most cars will do at 100 mph. But no, fast is bad.

    In my native Holland (traffic jam heaven) speed limits of 55 have been imposed (and enforced by trajectory speed traps) on parts of our highways recently in an effort to reduce pollution near cities. They have failed miserably – save for one piece of highway that has shown some improvement. They’ve been using this one example to upkeep all these limits, even the ones that have resulted in more and longer traffic jams. Why: because the general consensus seems to be that anyone suggesting people drive faster needs their head examined.

    I sincerely hope the EU won’t succeed in slowing the Germans down – because no one will be able to speed them up again.

  • avatar
    rubenyc

    @rashakor: Citroën is actually a Dutch name. ;-)

  • avatar
    sleepingbear

    >>> Last time I looked we had a problem with obesity not scarcity.

  • avatar
    JJ

    Germany’s four largest utilities have rebelled, warning that any such concession will reduce energy supplies, eliminate jobs and increase prices– which are already the highest in Europe.

    I guess that depends on what measures you take…

    in the Netherlands :(, Denmark etc energy is more expensive to my knowledge…

  • avatar
    philbailey

    I hate the econazis, trying to use a new “religion” to rule my life and increase my taxes. However, I have to agree with Herr Troge on one point. A 300 hp family car makes no sense in 65mph America. All the latest technical advances in engine management have been used to increase horsepower, not fuel economy. Even the Lexus hybrids use the electric motor to improve performance. Consumers Reports calls them “green superchargers”. The horsepower race is senseless and useless. The MINI for example, is a clear example of fun and economy rolled into one neat package. If you buy a minivan, don’t tell me you also want power. How on earth can you possibly use it?

  • avatar
    WaaaaHoooo

    The Mini is an example of overprices fun and economy mixed with a high dose of unreliability.

    Pretty much the first thing I did when I moved to the fatherland was stake out what sections of unrestricted autobahn were free of traffic and linksfahrer and when so I could blast around at full throttle (company paid for gas) . After a few times, it gets a little old and like someone said above, you relax into a 85-105mph mode which, given the design and well maintained surfacing of the roadway, is very comfortable and safe. You also don’t get anywhere too much faster punching it all day.

    That being said, to hell with the envirowhacks pushing this. It is interesting to see cars flaring by while on the road, and it is nice to have the optioin to punch it from time to time. Most people there are very cautious of the rules, which is nice, and it feels great to blow by a Polizeiwagen at 140mph when he is doing 90mph. It’s cool, but you know, denial of “approved” fun and private money is part of the liberal mantra that so many in europe sadly buy into, and sadder yet too many in the USA also. It’s why I moved out of Cal and to Texas to get away from them for a while longer.

  • avatar
    buzzliteyear

    Argh!

    Another case of environmentalists getting the concept right and the execution wrong.

    For environmental purposes (The safety issue is a separate consideration), the problem is NOT speed, it’s pollution generation (including CO2) and driver’s not paying for the external costs they generate.

    A perfect example of this is WaaHoo. Not only does he/she admit that he/she didn’t pay for the gas he/she used driving his/her car that quickly (power required for forward motion rises as the 3rd power of velocity), he/she did not pay for the lung damage caused by particulate/ground level ozone pollution generate, or ocean acidification, or the portion of US military budget required to guarantee access Middle East oil, or the budget of the Polizei/Krankenwagens/etc. needed to administrate these highways.

    To paraphrase a jingoistic/militaristic catch phrase, ‘Freedom’ isn’t free……it’s usually heavily subsidized.

    Make people pay the full price of their ‘freedom’ and suddenly getting 10 mpg at 120 mph seems less attractive than getting 30 mpg at 70-75 mph.

  • avatar
    rtz

    I’ve read about the subject before, but I’m still not crystal clear about this. How exactly is CO2 an insulator of some sorts? Is the atmosphere not 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen, and 1% “other”?

    If I have a container of nitrogen and a container of CO2 and I heat them both up, is it to be believed that the CO2 will retain more heat?

    Why don’t those environmentalist plant some trees? Plant enough of them and this whole “CO2 issue” will be resolved right?

    All things considered, I still don’t think CO2 causes or is involved in “global warming”. Do we have “global warming” in the winter time? ;) I don’t know about you, but it’s sure not very warm out there today! Someone tell Colorado they are producing too much CO2! ;)

  • avatar

    in a nutshell, the reason that CO2 results in the greenhouse effect is because it absorbs infrared radiation but is transparent to visible radiation.

    for the earth to remain at a constant temperature it has to emit as much radiation as it receives. the problem is that the earth emits heat in the form of infrared radiation. because CO2 levels are increasing, more and more heat is absorbed by the atmosphere rather than emitted into space. the result is that the surface temperature rises until as much radiation is sent out into space as is received.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Replying to rtz:
    Why don’t those environmentalist plant some trees? Plant enough of them and this whole “CO2 issue” will be resolved right?

    It’s like saying why don’t American troops stay in tanks so they cannot be killed by insurgents. Theoretically correct; pratically impossible.

    All things considered, I still don’t think CO2 causes or is involved in “global warming”. Do we have “global warming” in the winter time? ;) I don’t know about you, but it’s sure not very warm out there today! Someone tell Colorado they are producing too much CO2! ;)

    Again you logic is flawed. There is no global warming only because your local town is cold now? It’s like saying the earth is not a sphere because it’s all flat from where I can see. One certainly cannot see the big picture with tunnel vision.

    IMO, global warming is real and we should deal with the problem. However, I would prefer economic means instead of regulations. Say, if CO2 emission is increasing at a rate of 2% per year (purely guessing), then increase gas tax at a rate of 10% per year until the CO2 emission is not increasing any more.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    The accident statistics can be debated, but the fuel economy, or lack their of, at these high speeds is horrible. If Europe is serious about hitting CO2 reduction goals then there is no way the unlimited autobahn speeds will survive.

    High fuel prices do not seem to limit the fuel wasting behaviour of autobahn drivers, so regulation seems to be the only answer. In fact, there is also an issue of equality. Why should the wealthy be able to travel at light speed while the working blokes in their diesel Golfs have to poke along ?

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    Never mind the Autobahn. Check out this picture I took in Mayo, Ireland.

    Just beyond is a hill locals call: “The Corkscrew.”

  • avatar
    rtz

    What it comes down to is; is the burning of fuels used for transportation the root cause of global warming?

    How about when a volcano goes off or when California catches on fire every summer? How do those events compare to the constant emissions of vehicular exhaust?

    Where do the coal and natural gas fired power plants fit into this? I know the energy companies like to portray natural gas as clean energy; but when it’s burnt, it gets turned into what?

    Maybe the best thing to happen in regards to ceasing these C02 emissions would be for the oil supply to start running low like these peak oil sites surmise? What then? Electric cars? Hydrogen powered internal combustion engines? Your local power company will be responsible for either way regardless.

  • avatar
    WaaaaHoooo

    You want to slow the germans down on the autobahn? Limits won’t do it. Here’s how … most people flying around in their bimmers and porsches there basically do not pay the draconian hypertaxed gas prices Herr und Frau Jedermann in his 1.2 liter Opel must pay. Instead, they all have company cars that pick up the entire gas tab for these people with a minimal, steady hit from their paychecks , so they don’t care if they punch it, fry the motor, burn the gas, etc. That is for the peons to worry about. Their insurance and repairs are even covered by the company.

    You eliminate any and all tax benefits there for having a company car over a private car so that the “burners” to pay for the fuel they burn at the same rate that most everyone else there has to pay and you will see a drop in the number of people driving balls out down the autobahn. I heard it there all the time … “I’m not paying for it so I don’t care” … and I heartily agree.

    Driving a company car in Germany with regard to gas is like driving a rental car here with regard to carelessness … “oh, damn, I hit that curb hard … HA HA HA!”

  • avatar
    Steven T.

    Global warming is hard to talk about because it is a bit like non-point water pollution — it accumulates in varying amounts from a bewildering array of human activities. Because of that, it is easy for an individual polluter to argue that their contribution is minor. In a sense that is true, but if you look at the data, the transportation sector is still one of the biggest worldwide sources of greenhouse gases.

    Another troublesome aspect of global warming is that greenhouse gases persist in the atmosphere for roughly 100 years. So even if all of humanity completely stopped producing CO2 tomorrow, there would still be a lag period where the trapped gases would heat up the planet. That’s why many scientists say that we need to move quickly to rein in CO2 emissions.

    Even nations that have committed themselves to implementing the Kyoto Protocol are having difficulty reducing the growth in CO2 emissions, let alone cutting them back to 1990 levels.

    One reason: Folks seem to be gravitating toward bigger and faster cars throughout the world (in general, the worse the gas mileage, the greater the greenhouse gas emissions).

    Here are two useful sources of scientific information on global warming:
    http://www.realclimate.org/
    http://www.ipcc.ch/

  • avatar

    What it comes down to is; is the burning of fuels used for transportation the root cause of global warming?

    I think fuel for transportation accounts for about 20% of CO2 emissions. The real problem is burning fossil fuels in general, so switching to electric cars wouldn’t necessarily be a magic bullet unless power stations switched as well.

    How about when a volcano goes off or when California catches on fire every summer? How do those events compare to the constant emissions of vehicular exhaust?

    there’s a natural CO2 cycle thats responsible for normal average temperatures, but the concern is that CO2 concentrations have gone through the roof in modern times, much higher than what’s typically seen naturally.

  • avatar

    I recall being in the back of a big Benz cab, going from the Munich airport into the city (a very long drive)… I was behind the driver, with my co-worker opposite me. It was his first trip to Munich, but I had been there many times before. I was just looking out the window, enjoying the scenery when I turnedto say something to him. I stopped speaking when I noted his eyeballs were as big as saucers. He was staring at the dashboard in front of the cab driver with a look of fear. I glanced over the driver’s shoulder and he had the big S-class barge floating along at well over 200 Kp/h.

    I just smiled and said to my friend: “Welcome to Germany.”

    Up until that moment, I had no sensation of speed at all… just another cab ride on the Autobahn.

    I also agree that the 80-110 MPH zone on most restricted access highways is quite comfortable, and would be achievable here in the USA if they made getting (and keeping) a driver’s license more stringent than it is now. My son is 16 and I’ve been helping him learn, but the testing – at least in my state – is laughable. 20 questions, easily half of which are concerned with fines and DUI, and very little about actual driving.

    Here, take it yourself!

    That is an embarrassment and pretty much sums up why Americans drive the way they do.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I think that many of you are missing Mr. Farago’s closing words and the context of the discussion.

    The Greens have long tried, without success, to impose a low speed limit on the autobahnen. In the past, they attempted to convince the public of the need for a 100 km/h (62 mph) limit, but that idea was about as welcome as a Klansman at an Al Sharpton rally. Germans like their high speeds, and concerns for the environment notwithstanding, they are fond of their acceleration that much more. They tend to deal with the pollution issue by driving less and using mass transit more, not by attacking fast cars.

    Furthermore, EU countries outside of Scandinavia tend to universally support relatively high speed limits on motorways/ freeways. The typical limit is 120 or 130 km/h (75 or 81 mph), with Italy even having some sections of autostrade with 150 km/h (94 mph) limits. So there is no push from anyone with any political power to slow Europe to a halt.

    But as noted, speed limits are inevitable largely because of the EU’s consistent desire to harmonize laws of all types across borders, which would be the case irrespective of the environmental movement. I would bet that this will ultimately lead to a universal 130 km/h limit being imposed across the EU, including a long-overdue increase in the UK from 70 to 80 mph.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    I hope the fact that the individual states in the USA set their own speed (and other road) regulations (in the aftermath of the disastrous "Drive 55") will help the Germans keep the Autobahnen "immer mit kein geschwindigkeitsbegrenzen" in their battles with the nanny statists in Brussels. And I have long said that the single greatest improvement for driving in the US would be mandatory lane discipline, with citations given to offenders. (I wonder if anyone has ever, ever (!) been cited in the US for left lane blocking??) Of course the road surfaces are so much better in Germany because the specs require a 40 year life span, as opposed to the 20 or so years expected in the States. German road beds are like twice as deep as those of typical American freeways. And i somehow doubt that the contracts in the Fatherland go to the lowest bidder, yaknowwhatimsayin? BTW, I have driven 911s and Citroen C6's flat out in Germany and I enjoyed myself immensely in both. Andre Citroen's family was from Poland via Amsterdam. He was born in France though.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    Glad you changed the heading RF, it wasn’t exactly or classically Shakespearean.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I’m from Spain, and I hate the effects of EU legislation.

    Spain isn’t a country that likes rules. So when the Northern Europeans (who do) write up their lists of restrictions, that’s fine for them, but it doesn’t work for anybody but them!

    We already have the silliness of cops smoking next to no smoking signs. Now the road laws are going nuts too.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Germans are a people who won’t jaywalk– even if there isn’t a car anywhere within sight.

    This freaked me out the most when I was living there. The Germans have a long tradition of obedience to external authority (Though I think that is waning… I did my best to “corrupt” them and make them “irresponsible”… especially the young girls… The concepts of free-will/free-choice (Volition) are foreign to many). There are a lot of pedestrian/auto accidents (Hence pedestrian-safe “laws” for front-end car designs.) because they will look straight ahead waiting for “permission” from a traffic walk light and then not even look right and left before they cross… ouch!

    Unlimited speed *causes* better drivers. I think a great driver test for Americans would be to send them to Bremerhaven and “force” them to drive a Chrysler Sebring to Munich, if they arrive alive, give them a drivers license for life. If they arrive dead, um, give them a drivers license for life. (Reminds me of a great saying “Build a man a fire and he will be warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life…. AhrAhr)

    The Bundestag could more easily outlaw Oktoberfest than limit speeds on the Autobahn. The speed limits will come from Brussels. Then the Germans will become sloppy drivers like Americans.

    The derestricted autobahn is a precious bastion against soulless conformity.

    Yup. Well said RF. An escape from egalitarian nit-wittery.

  • avatar
    WaaaaHoooo

    Jaywalking…

    Side note about jaywalking in Germany … one night about 2am in a semi-residential part of Munich I am walking to my car, and cut across a 2-lane street where there was no moving car to be seen at all. Some old lady starts yelling at me out her window (why she was watching me, I don’t know, but I got used to being observed there everywhere). She is saying “what are you doing crossing there? what if children see? you are a bad example!” I’m thinking “WTF, oh die armen Kinder” and and respond that any kid out on the streets at 2am has parents for a bad example and not me. She hollered further but I wandered on thankfully knowing full well I would not spend the rest of my life in that country.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Unlimited speed *causes* better drivers.

    Make no mistake — I do like to drive fast, and I am a big fan of the autobahn concept — but you can’t use one country’s example as proof that a lack of limits inspires discipline. The Northern Territory of Australia and India also have no limits, yet I doubt that you’d be inclined to cite either one as an exemplar of quality driving.

    Likewise, some of lowest motorway fatality rates in the world are to be found in the UK and the Netherlands, both of which have speed limits (70 mph, and 120 kmh/ 75 mph limit, respectively.) And bless our hearts, even though the US has forsaken the 55 mph anchor in favor of somewhat more reasonable speeds, our fatality rates remain solidly mid-pack to somewhat better than average.

    I’m sure that there are many factors that affect fatality rates, but I doubt that a limit or lack thereof makes much of a difference, either way. Most traffic studies I’ve seen indicate that speed limits are largely irrelevant in governing behavior. Given the choice, drivers will drive at the speeds at which they are comfortable, and the limits are largely ignored.

    Traffic engineers appreciate that most speed limits should be set near the 85th percentile, i.e. at a point that reflects the speed of the prevailing flow of traffic. This implies that appropriate speed limits should generally account for existing behaviors, rather than try to modify them, and that rational people will typically drive at speeds that account for their need to get to Point B efficiently without killing themselves whilst in transit. A limit that is too low will simply be violated, and is therefore pointless.

  • avatar
    noley

    chuckgoolsbee–
    I had a similar experience on my last trip into Munich from the ariport. A nice quick, quiet run and 180 to 200 KPH. No danger, no drama.

    A couple of years ago in France we were running about 160 KPH from Paris to Angers. (yes, I know the limit was 130) and I notice that my wife and kids are fast asleep. This is the same woman who tells me to slow down should the speedo touch 80 mph in the states.

    Later she tells me, “Drivers over here are much better behaved. And Everyone is running 80 to 100 mph. They stay in their lanes and the speed is just no big deal.”
    We were there for two weeks and it was great to be able to drive at a reasonable speed on an open road.

    I hope the autobahns that are still unlimited stay that away, but I fear that may not be.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Spain isn’t a country that likes rules.
    We already have the silliness of cops smoking next to no smoking signs.

    I like Spain!!! Although I could probably not do to much “physicological damage” there.

    The economic union is a good thing but the political union is… Well… Brussels are the most hard-core Statist maggots in the “free” world… Worse than the maggots in DC if you can believe that.

    The Green Party are Watermelons: Green on the outside, Red in the middle. The discredited Communists ran to the Green Party after the fall of the Soviet Union.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Make no mistake — I do like to drive fast, and I am a big fan of the autobahn concept — but you can’t use one country’s example as proof that a lack of limits inspires discipline.

    Nothing focuses the mind, inspires reason, encourages lane disipline than survival pressure. Nothing.

  • avatar
    tms1999

    “A limit that is too low will simply be violated, and is therefore pointless.”

    When common sense applies, I agree. Howver, a speed limit that is constantly violated makes it alot easier for Law Enforcement to pick victims for a speed tax. Oops, I mean pick violators for speeding offense, you catch my drift.

    In the US speed limits have long stopped being enforce for safety for the much more appreciated (for the revenue) ticket money. Otherwise they would also be citing for other (more) fangerous behaviors.

    Straight line 4 lane highways, miles of visibility, 55 mph. Makes a lot of sense.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Nothing focuses the mind, inspires reason, encourages lane disipline than survival pressure. Nothing.

    This doesn’t seem to apply in either India or the Northern Territory, although it seemed to work well in Montana. Frankly, we don’t have enough examples to know whether or not this is true.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    If you want to slow down the Autobahn, just grab some Floridians and throw them the keys to a couple of 745il’s

  • avatar

    There's no question that Germany's combination of stringent driving standards, the high cost of motoring and their national character create a country of relatively courteous and safe drivers– at any speed. There's also no question that the European Union is a non-democratic organization bound and determined to steamroller national differences in the name of, um, what was it again?

  • avatar

    I say increase the laughable license requirements in the US first, and then think about lifting speed limits. Limits today are already relatively lethal and people still drive like morons for the most part. Although, there are already a few roads in LA that have absurdly high limits for some reason.

    Of course, with traffic the way is, it might not matter either way.

  • avatar
    Tyler D

    There’s also no question that the European Union is a non-democratic organization bound and determined to steamroller national differences in the name of, um, what was it again?

    COMMUNISM!

  • avatar

    Tyler D: Nope. That's not it. (At least officially.) Economic harmonization? It's on the tip of my tongue…

  • avatar
    WaaaaHoooo

    Der europäische Superstaat?

  • avatar
    wsn

    jthorner:

    High fuel prices do not seem to limit the fuel wasting behaviour of autobahn drivers, so regulation seems to be the only answer.

    That’s because the price isn’t really high enough. As long as the price increase at a certain percentage higher than the CO2 rate, the CO2 emission (caused by cars) will cease to increase someday.

  • avatar
    John Williams

    A 300 hp family car makes no sense in 65mph America.

    So, what does?

    You could just as easily say that 100hp is good enough for most Americans. But then again, most Americans have their own opinions on what’s best for them, good or bad.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    More:

    German Transportation Program for EU Council Presidency Focused on Safety, Fuels and Emissions; Transport Minister Rejects Speed Limits

  • avatar
    HawaiiJim

    John Williams:

    Yes, we each make our own choices. Take houses, for example. Did George Washington need Mount Vernon? Did Thomas Jefferson need Monticello? Is there a residential square footage limit above which a house makes no sense? Many of our choices in cars are made to reinforce, for ourselves and those we encounter, our own social and economic stature. Some folks may seek high horsepower because they genuinely want that extra margin of safety for certain driving situations. I test drove the first Infiniti G35 and loved the zip, but it seemed excessive for my needs. On the other hand, I’d regard extra safety features in a car, even at added cost, as modest and prudent. If we all liked the same cars, TTAC would be dull indeed.

  • avatar
    rubenyc

    @RF: Steamroller national differences? Let them start with new car prices – a low-spec Miata, taxes added up, costs about 30% more here in Holland than it does in Belgium!

    This is exactly what’s so ridiculous about the EU. They’d like every country to conform to certain rules, except when it puts a lot of money into their pockets – then it’s just fine to let sleeping dogs lie.

    @Pch101: We have low fatality rates in the Netherlands because we’re crawling along at 2mph most of the time! Check your Europe-wide NOx levels, and we’ll come out on top. Idling diesels do NOT help the environment!

    @noley: This is true until you actually drive around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. ;-) Germany is, whichever way you put it, entirely different from any country in Europe. People pay attention constantly, watch their rearview mirrors – driving on the Autobahn, whether at 60 or 160 MPH, is an incredible experience.

  • avatar
    Steven T.

    “There’s also no question that the European Union is a non-democratic organization bound and determined to steamroller national differences in the name of, um, what was it again?” — Farago

    Can we acknowledge that European integration has hardly been imposed by fiat, and that it has had numerous set backs along the way? So to describe the EU as “non-democratic” is rather simplistic and shrill.

    Indeed, given the constant bickering within the EU over other issues, I’m not willing to assume that speed limit harmonization is a done deal until in fact the ink is dry on a formal agreement.

    More broadly, it should be noted that the strongest advocates of economic harmonization have been multinational corporations. It’s easy to understand why by looking at the advantages to the auto industry. If the U.S. and EU shared identical safety and environmental-protection regulations, automakers could save a great deal of money, reduce regulatory uncertainty, and increase the flexibiility with which they could shift their products among markets.

    Here in the U.S., one of the greatest areas of agreement between the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations has been the importance of harmonizing regulations through a host of international agreements. Furthermore, if you are concerned about a lack of democratic process, the WTO is much, much more problematic than the EU.

    In saying all of this I’m not agreeing with the apparent EU goal of harmonizing speed limits. Rather, I’m pointing out that this particular issue is caught up in a larger trend. If you are going to criticize that trend, the questions then become: When does harmonization go too far? And — perhaps more importantly — on what logical basis do you reject harmonization on one issue (e.g., speed limits) and not on another?

    Once you start asking those questions you may see a divergence between the interests of (most) automakers and gearheads.

  • avatar
    Luther

    This is a lot a bit off topic, better suited for the Ford Death Watch:

    Joke:

    Four Engineers were driving a Ford thru the desert when the car stalls out. The Electrical Engineer says it is an electrical problem, the Mechanical Engineer states it is a mechanical problem, the Chemical Engineer thought it had to do with the gasoline, the Microsoft Software Engineer states “Well… Maybe if we all get out of the car and then get back in….”

    http://dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=5523

  • avatar
    JJ

    Driving a company car in Germany with regard to gas is like driving a rental car here with regard to carelessness … “oh, damn, I hit that curb hard … HA HA HA!”

    HA…You just see it happening…

    There’s also no question that the European Union is a non-democratic organization bound and determined to steamroller national differences in the name of, um, what was it again?

    COMMUNISM!

    Yes, sadly but true, I’ve said it here many times…

    The problem is not so much the people themselves. For instance, here in the Netherlands we had a referendum about accepting the common European constitution. Now that’s the only thing as far as I can remember that we had a referendum about, which is weird, since you would think they would try this out with some less sensitive subject first.

    Anyway, in spite of nearly all politicians trying to convince the people they should vote in favour (scared they would loose face with their Euro-colleagues), the people voted against it with about a 60% majority and a turnout of about 80%.

    A view years later however, the government is trying to find ways to accept it anyway.

    This is partly because you wouldn’t believe what we’d call a right-wing party here (apart from the loonatics who say all foreigners are bad). The VVD (liberals) aren’t right-wing at all (I guess you could compare them with the American democrats), but still they are attacked by left-wingers like you see in every other country. It’s just sad to see, really.

    One other point about the death toll in the Netherlands on highways, someone mentioned it’s one of the lowest in the world together with the UK. I think there’s an easy explanation for this; trafic-jams.

    Apart from crashing into the back of slowly driving cars it’s very hard to kill yourself or others driving 10-20 mph…

  • avatar
    Gottleib

    strong>More broadly, it should be noted that the strongest advocates of economic harmonization have been multinational corporations.

    I think you have a very valid point here. Why I keep forgetting this I don’t know but I do. The corporation, a legal entity, is still not a human person and I think should be limited in its ability to influence those of us that are.

    Globalization, harmonization and all other attempts to standardize commerce are nothing more than attempts by those with the most captial to increase their wealth.

    When I give it some consideration and look at the automobile industry today the products of Europe Asia and North America are all rather harmonized. Gone are the days of the funny looking little VW, the weird looking Citroen, the Chrysler with large tail fines and a dual four barrel hemi engine. Today, even though we don’t want to admit it, all cars are pretty much the same differentiated by perceptible qualitative differences and size. Even with this level of harmonization the auto industry struggles, possibly because there is now too much capacity for what has become a product that is basically very similar to the competition.

    Lets have less harmonization and more differentiation, as our friends is France are fond of saying, viva la difference!

  • avatar
    Pch101

    We have low fatality rates in the Netherlands because we’re crawling along at 2mph most of the time!

    With that comment, you’re indirectly arguing that “speed kills,” an argument with which I believe that most of us on a forum such as this would disagree. And in any case, the Germans have their share of nasty traffic jams, as well as large sections of autobahnen with speed limits. Plus, if you review accident and fatality statistics, I believe that you see that there are plenty of fatalties on roads with lower traffic speeds — humans were not designed to travel more than a few miles per hour, and even low speed impacts can and do kill people.

    It’s admittedly difficult to make comparisons between countries because the definition of what constitutes a “fatality” varies from place to place, so take that into account as you consider my conclusions. But as a casual student of this topic (yes, I confess to having some questionable hobbies), I’ve noticed that if you compare speed limits among those Western countries that claim the lowest fatality rates, you’ll see no correlation vis-a-vis those speed limits. Likewise, if you compare fatality rates among nations with mid-pack results, there is also no correlation. And if you compare those nations that are below-average, there is yet again no correlation. Whether the limit is high or low, it can’t be used in a vacuum as a predictor of what the fatality rate will ultimately be — the limit seems largely irrelevant.

    I haven’t reviewed it with enough depth to come up with a magic bullet explanation, but I suspect that if I’d run this stuff through my slide rule long enough, I would find that “safe” countries share a trait that is less evident in “less safe” countries: A relatively high proportion of motorway/ freeway usage seems to correlate with safety.

    It does make some sense. Because motorways put distance and barriers between opposing traffic while eliminate intersections with cross traffic, the likelihood of head-on and broadside collisions is low. And because these are the most deadly types of crashes, reducing those as factors greatly improves safety.

    One theory as to why fatalities kept decreasing after the US increased its speed limits suggests that raising the limits encouraged drivers to shift more of their driving away from highways and toward these safer freeways. I think you’ll note that countries with both high tolls on motorways and free non-motorway alternatives are not generally among those with the lowest fatality rates, possibly because their high cost encourages drivers to use those free alternatives that are less safe in their design.

    I also suspect that there may also be some cultural forces at work. The “safe” countries are invariably those that we’d associate with obedience and order, while the “less safe” are less so. I’m not sure if this observation holds much water, but given that orderly predictable behavior and driving safety seem to correlate, there may be a bit of truth to this possibility.

  • avatar
    biturbo

    Rashakor,

    I said that trading a Porsche for a Citroen is abysmal.
    Nothing about French cars.
    Although I am happy that there is no such thing for sale here :-)

    “Car nutz generally dig cars with personality; quirkyness is a plus, and performance definitively a nice thing…
    French cars have always been that.”

    Quirkiness, ugliness, yes, plenty :-)
    There is not a single car from Citroen that can be put in the same proposition with performance and Porsche; please name one for us.
    Citroen and performance? Citron??

  • avatar
    JJ

    We have low fatality rates in the Netherlands because we’re crawling along at 2mph most of the time!

    With that comment, you’re indirectly arguing that “speed kills,”

    Hmm…

    Not necessarily so I think. I don’t think the velocity/fatality graph is a straight line. To die while driving, you must (usually) drive at a certain speed to be injured or worse. If you drive 20 mph and crash into something, chances are you’ll survive.

    However…If you’re cruising around at 120 Km/h, giving you enough possibilities to attend to whatever other things than just driving on the one hand or going 160+ Km/h forcing you to keep your mind on the road and the wheel on the other, I wouldn’t know what’s safer. I’m guessing the latter, but maybe that’s wishful thinking.

    I guess it’s a question of taking the good with the bad. Do you want highways were traffic is jammed al lot of the time so people CAN’T drive fast and thus not kill themselves, or do you want the road being used what it’s for and accept that people will sometimes get in an accident and die or get injured, no matter how tragic that is.

    TopGear’s Jeremy Clarkson just wrote a column about this, after “the Hamster” nearly killed himself in that Jet powered vehicle, here’s a link:

    http://www.topgear.com/content/features/stories/2006/11/stories/13/1.html

  • avatar
    biturbo

    Well done Robert, “The derestricted autobahn network is a precious bastion against soulless conformity”.

    Against traffic jams as well.

    Against the posers as well :-)
    Unlimited legal speed would decrease sales of the huge-mobiles, bling-mobiles, riced-mobiles, etc.

    I would love to have no-speed limit highways in North America, even if they would be very expensive toll-roads, to compensate for the speeding fines revenue loss :-)

  • avatar
    noley

    What is so ironic in the US is the random enforcement of speed laws, showing how they are largely meaningless.

    Everytime I go to Arizona, for example, with its 75 mph limit, I find myself running 85 to 90 in reasonably spread out traffic, and the cops ignore everyone. Even in the east, on the NY Thruway, which I drive regularly, the limit is 65 and I’ve routinely gone by cops at 80 and they don’t even blink. It used to be 75. In each case, and numerous others, they are awaiting someone going seriously fast so they can nail them with a bigger fine. But go 11 over in some states and you get a ticket. It is all BS and has nothing to do with safety.

    Still, I don’t want ulimited speed interstates here in the US. We lack the driver training, consistent vehicle inspections and lane discipline needed to make even moderately fast speeds (80 + but still under 100) safe for “typical” drivers. Many modern cars are pretty secure at such velocities, but as the old saying goes, “it’s still the nut behind the wheel that’s the most troublesome part on the car.”

  • avatar
    Luther

    However…If you’re cruising around at 120 Km/h, giving you enough possibilities to attend to whatever other things than just driving on the one hand or going 160+ Km/h forcing you to keep your mind on the road and the wheel on the other, I wouldn’t know what’s safer. I’m guessing the latter, but maybe that’s wishful thinking.

    You are correct JJ. Not wishful thinking at all.
    If the Autobahn is limited to 130km/h then it will open up a market for the Ford Taurus in Germany. Competitive pressure will cheapen driving dynamics to lower costs. Why design a 280km/h car when the limit is 130km/h. If the U.S. had unlimited speed highways then 2.5 N.A. would be building world-class cars and demand for Suburbans/Expeditions would dwindle. One of the biggest drivers of poor cars from 2.5 in the U.S. was the the 90km/h national speed limit.
    When the Autobahn is finally limited to 130km/h (It will…Ugh) the demand for SUVs in Germany will be higher. DCX will sell many more Jeeps in Europe than they do now.

  • avatar
    gogogodzilla

    The eco-nuts mantra regarding CO2 is bunk. Not by the science, which may or may not be sound, but by the eco-nuts targeting.

    If they truly believed that CO2 was the danger they make it out to be, they would not be targeting cars driving on 2% of Germany’s roads.

    No, they would be targeting every human on earth. For every time we exhale, we release the dreaded CO2. And there are 6 billion of us releasing the planet-killing CO2 every second.

    Imagine how much less CO2 would be in the atmosphere if we all stopped exhaling? (Or for that matter, if all the eco-nuts stopped exhaling)

    But noooo! It’s the cars, you see! The CARS!!!

    (And let’s not forget about all the methane being released into the atmosphere from… cow farts. Ban the cow, too!)

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    So how do you suppose we make people pay for the “true cost” of their fuel burning?

    It seems that the standard method is to increase the price of fuel. We can do that in two ways: Stuff more money into the pockets of BigOil, or stuff more money into the coffers of BigGovernment…and you know that won’t do a dime’s worth of good to repair the environment or prevent further damage. All it would do is increase the “inequity” between the “elite” and the rest of us, which, strangely enough, is something that the environmentalist types are often railing against…

    If you think for a second that all the money that the government or oil companies would collect in the name of environmental causes would actually be spent properly, you’re crazy or naive.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    I wanted to respond to this from Robert’s original text:

    Remember: Germans are a people who won’t jaywalk– even if there isn’t a car anywhere within sight. They can’t run their washing machines or wash their car on a Sunday– in case the noise disturbs their neighbors. In the main, they like rules. But they also like their autobahns. And that’s because the roads liberate them from sitfling peer pressure and governmental dictat, giving them a rare chance to explore and experience their individuality. Auf die autobahn, German drivers revel in the sheer joy of accelerative release. The derestricted autobahn network is a precious bastion against soulless conformity.

    My gut reaction to the parts I have boldfaced above (if I did it right, that is), is that if “everybody” (I know it’s not really everybody, but hang with me here) in Germany expresses themselves the same way (driving on the autobahn), then are they really unique? Or are they merely continuing in their conformity?

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    First the EU did away with the Reinheitsgebothe (German Beer Purity Law, probably horribly misspelled), now they are attacking the speed limitless autobahn. What next, no Liederhosen?

    As far as CO2 emissions, the massive fires of the west (due in large part to our attempts at controlling nature) release tons more (literally) CO2 than all the cars on the roads of the US. Now we figure that the earth is getting warmer, we’ll control that as well. Good luck.

    As mentioned early in the article, the environmentalist movement first attacked emissions such as NOx and hydrocarbons. Now that those are nearly nonexistent, they are moving along to CO2. Can somebody say ulterior motive? By the way, NOx holds approximately 700 times the amount of heat as CO2 in the atmosphere, and hydrocarbons approximately 100 times CO2. If we’ve lowered our hydrocarbon and NOX emissions by 1,000’s of times (versus pre-smog cars), how can it be argued that cars are contributing more to the “green house effect”? Is there really 1000’s times as much gasoline consumed by cars now as there was 40 years ago?

    California is so forward thinking that they are imposing carbon limits on every thing from cars to electricity producers to the ag business that has somehow survived previous environmentalist attacks and continues to drive the state’s economy. Farmers will have to show that teh crops they plant reduce the CO2 in the air by more than the amount of greenhouse gases contributed from the operation of farm equipment and the use of fertilizer (nitrogen compounds). The dairy and beef cattle industries are screwed.

    All of this talk of fairness and what everybody should be happy driving (or not). Reminds me of a teaching assistant in my college political philosophy course that liked beans and rice and arguedin the mandatory discussion group one day that utopia would be everybody receiving their ration of beans and rice from the collective government. He argued it was nutritious, tasted good, and was all anybody needed to lead a healthy life. This was his idea of a utopian society. He couldn’t understand that some people don’t like beans and rice and are willing to work harder so that they can afford more expensive fare that is more to their liking on their table each night. Just as people are willing to spend more for a car that goes 0-60 in under 6 seconds or one that will swathe them in luxury (to varying degrees) when all they really “need” is a moped to get them to and from work each day with a stop at the local grocery store on the way home each night. What is the result of all of this? The drive to have what you want propels advancements in technology much better than an edict and funding from the government. It results in a society where a car, multiple TVs, dvd players, cell phones, etc. are now considered necessities and no longer luxuries. It also results in these items costing much less, as the reward for developing items that people want for a lower price is comfort for the person who makes these improvements in design or manufacturing. A society where people honestly pursue there own presonal improvement is my idea of utopia, not one where the government decides what we need and tells us what is best for us.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Can somebody say ulterior motive?

    Environmentalists are human-haters. They think Humanity is a cancer on the Earth. They claim to want to save the planet but the real goal is to starve people. Submit to Gaia or die.

    Environmentalists, Al-qaida… Whats the difference?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Environmentalists, Al-qaida… Whats the difference?

    Here’s an idea for a New Year’s resolution for 2007: Let’s all try to avoid using absurd analogies and ridiculously faulty comparisons, such as this one.

    Whether or not you like it, we all live on this planet, and one’s love or loathing of internal combustion does not change the fact that our big blue marble seems to be undergoing the early effects of climate change and environmental degradation. Even your high horsepower ride isn’t going to function all that well in a declining Earth.

    This is not a clash of civilizations between those who like cars and those who like the earth, and an interest in one does not preclude a desire to sustain the other. We need to accept that we need to balance our needs and desire for mobility with sustaining life on this earth, and that this is going to require some combination of cleaner technologies, alternative fuels, expanded mass transit and reduced consumption. I don’t see low speed limits as an answer, as it is not possible to enforce them without resorting to draconian Orwellian measures and they won’t enhance either mobility or safety, but we do need to do something more than just accept the status quo.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Pch101 wrote:

    …Here’s an idea for a New Year’s resolution for 2007: Let’s all try to avoid using absurd analogies and ridiculously faulty comparisons…

    Whether or not you like it, we all live on this planet, and one’s love or loathing of internal combustion does not change the fact that our big blue marble seems to be undergoing the early effects of climate change and environmental degradation. Even your high horsepower ride isn’t going to function all that well in a declining Earth.

    I agree, let’s stop making faulty comparisons. And while we’re at it, let’s be honest and recognize a couple of things:

    1. There are lots of scientists who don’t even agree that the earth is warming up, and they have scientific data to back up their claims. Their data even shows that some parts of the world are actually cooling off.

    How can somebody claim global warming when…

    ….A) We don’t have accurate historical data for a major percentage of the world? Yes, and for many parts of the world, we don’t even have the questionable benefit of bad data…we simply have NO data at all. I have to wonder, how much of this scare are we making up?

    ….B) Much of the historical data that we DO have is either inconclusive or shows changes of an extremely minute nature (like in the tenths of degrees or vague historical references to how hot it “felt” that summer)?

    2. Personally, I don’t think there is any conclusive scientific proof that humans are the cause of any warming or cooling. Just my opinion.

    And it’s supportable, too. When Mount St. Helens blew her top 20 years ago, and again with her recent rumbles (though not a full eruption), she produced more pollution than all of mankind ever produced in the whole history of man.

    What were people saying a year ago, after the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes? That we would be inundated from here on out. That was it, it’s over! Oh yeah, and that this was all the fault of warm water caused by human activity, yes? Well, where were the 2006 hurricanes?

    Scientists with a genuine disagreement with commonly held beliefs are often being shut out of the public conversation. They don’t get money for their research projects, they don’t get university resources, and they certainly don’t get invited onto Nightline, CBS Evening News, or even Leno or Letterman!

    Somebody at work tried to tell me “everybody knows that global warming is happening!” I responded to him, how do they “know?” Just because everybody else is saying so?

    I ask a simple question here. What if the mainstream is wrong? It’s certainly possible. We were wrong about margarine, loaded with its trans-fats. Now butter isn’t so bad for us!

    Of course, we still cannot decide whether or not coffee is harmful. This week it’s good. Next week, it’s bad. The week after, we should drink caffeine-free. Next month, oops…de-caf is bad, gotta go back to regular. And now there are some lunatics that say coffee is best taken by enema!

    Do you get my point here? We’re basically befuddled! Some of us (yours truly, for example) are lucky we can get up in the morning without losing an eye, and we are very very blessed if we can get through the day with all of our appendages still attached and our internal organs still inside us! At least in my defense, I know the proper place to insert my food!

    In all seriousness, just because we can seemingly move heaven and earth and fly beyond the bounds of gravity with our machines, that doesn’t mean that we’re all that powerful (or all that “all-knowing”) in the great scheme of things.

    We can barely clean ourselves and get dressed in the morning and yet we’re so damned sure that global warming is here to kill us all? That’s just so silly!

    So yes, I think a good resolution for 2007 would be for us to all be honest.

    I think we DO need to learn what we can about global warming. But we need honest work, and good science. We are capable of honest research. We are capable of good science.

    If global warming really is happening (I still think it’s too soon to tell), honest research just might show us that we really can’t do anything about it.

    In that event, maybe we should be exerting at least a little bit of our effort in trying to figure out how to adapt to it.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    There are lots of scientists who don’t even agree that the earth is warming up, and they have scientific data to back up their claims. Their data even shows that some parts of the world are actually cooling off.

    There really aren’t. There are very few within the scientific community who hold the position that you claim.

    The article below in Science Magazine does a nice job of summarizing the science. Many of the claims of ambiguity are coming from politicians with no science background, not from scientists:
    _______________________

    The scientific consensus is clearly expressed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)…IPCC states unequivocally that the consensus of scientific opinion is that Earth’s climate is being affected by human activities: “Human activities … are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents … that absorb or scatter radiant energy. … [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations” .

    IPCC is not alone in its conclusions. In recent years, all major scientific bodies in the United States whose members’ expertise bears directly on the matter have issued similar statements. For example, the National Academy of Sciences report, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, begins: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise”. The report explicitly asks whether the IPCC assessment is a fair summary of professional scientific thinking, and answers yes: “The IPCC’s conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue”.

    Others agree. The American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all have issued statements in recent years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling.

    The drafting of such reports and statements involves many opportunities for comment, criticism, and revision, and it is not likely that they would diverge greatly from the opinions of the societies’ members. Nevertheless, they might downplay legitimate dissenting opinions. That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords “climate change”.

    The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

    Admittedly, authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.

    This analysis shows that scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature agree with IPCC, the National Academy of Sciences, and the public statements of their professional societies. Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Unfortunately, I have no access to peer-reviewed literature to refute you. But I know that there is a legitimate published opposing view.

    And you haven’t addressed the issue of humans being the cause of all this.

    If it’s true that we haven’t caused it, then there’s likely nothing we can do to reverse it. We need to decide if another course of action is more prudent; more effective.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    But I know that there is a legitimate published opposing view.

    That position does exist, but it barely registers a blip on the radar compared to the views held by the majority of scientists. You can’t possibly give the positions equal weight or claim that they have equal credibility.

    Politicians in the US have tried to sell us this nonsense that climate change is just a theory among many other competing theories. But this is election-driven rhetoric used to deal with a voting populace that goes ballistic when asked to do something as modest as turning down the heat and wearing a sweater in order to reduce their energy consumption. They are pandering to our wishful thinking and unwillingness to sacrifice even the slightest bit for the good of the country and our future.

    Car fans on the fringe do themselves no favors by pretending that they don’t have a vested interest in the health of our planet. Whether you drive a hybrid or a Hemi, we are all going to end up in the same leaky boat if we pay no mind to the future. It’s not “communism” (my favorite work from Marx comes from Groucho, not Karl), it’s just common sense.

  • avatar

    I am an environmentalist, and I LOVE cars. I also love internal combustion. Fuel cells and electrics seem soulless to me. (In my cosmology, mechanical things have soul, electronic things don’t–however useful they may be.)

    Nonetheless, I hope we develop a reasonable alternative to IC that doesn’t add CO2 to the atmosphere, and I hope we do it real soon, because I think global heating is potentially catastrophic. By that, I mean that it could bring starvation to much of the world. Cars do not produce even a majority of greenhouse gases, but they are still such an important culprit that they must be part of the solution.

    On the issue of speed limits, at least one person at the beginning of this thread made the point that lowering speed limits too much will cause traffic jams. This is absolutely true. Imagine a 100 mile stretch of highway with most of hte traffic–say, 1000 cars, traversing it at 50 mph. Each of those cars will occupy the 100 mile stretch for two hours. If the cars are going 100 mph, they will occupy the s tretch for only an hour. Thus, halving the speed limit from 100 to 50mph would double the traffic on the highway. Etc.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    David Holzman wrote:

    Nonetheless, I hope we develop a reasonable alternative to IC that doesn’t add CO2 to the atmosphere, and I hope we do it real soon, because I think global heating is potentially catastrophic. By that, I mean that it could bring starvation to much of the world.

    Cars…are still such an important culprit that they must be part of the solution.

    Hi, David. “Potentially” and “could” don’t make it fact, and yet it’s so natural for people to take “potentially” and “could” and turn them in to “such an important culprit” and “must.”

    As I said in my first post, nobody has been able to actually show me that coffee is bad. Or good. I just know I like it, and that it hasn’t killed me yet!

    So where does that leave us with global warming? If we can’t decide on coffee, who’s to say that our Brainiac scientists won’t change their minds in ten years (as I have no doubt that they will) and start saying that oh, oops, we’re really experiencing a decline in temperature? Oh that’s right, that happened once already, and they started calling it “climate change” instead of “global warming.”

    Well, when it happens again, what will we do to avoid the coming ice-age; burn MORE oil? Hey, maybe we should just drink more coffee!

    Yes, I’m being ridiculous, but I’m trying to make the point that even our best scientists keep changing our minds about things (no, that’s not a typo).

    That’s because, in my opinion, we still do NOT have all of the facts. If we don’t know the question, how can we even begin to guess at the answer? At this point, my coffee solution is just about as good as changing our combustion habits. And a lot cheaper, too!

    Again, I insist that proper cause-and-effect of human behavior on GLOBAL temperature averages has not been proven. Because of that, we cannot say with certainty (or even moderate confidence) that changing our behavior will make a difference either.

    The environmental argument is far too emotional. I hear things like “cars are such a big part of the problem, they must be part of the solution.” Again, we’re making assumptions, and then basing our conclusions on those (I believe flawed) assumptions.

    I think there’s a possibility that it’s partly the media mantra that we keep hearing. And for a lot of people, it’s supported by their local experiences or their psychological reaction to the mass-media-hand-wringing-hysteria.

    “So-and-so on the news said we’re having the hottest summer EVER. And it’s hot where I live in Houston, so it MUST be hot everywhere.”

    Nevermind that we have only been using thermometers since the 1800’s, and not everywhere in the world, either…

    “It’s smoggy where I work in LA, so it MUST be smoggy everwhere. And since everybody drives in LA and the 405 is worse than a parking lot, it MUST be the cars creating the smog. And if they create smog here in LA, then they MUST be creating smog all over the world.”

    Nevermind that some cities actually have heavier traffic and yet cleaner air than in prior decades…

    It’s like reading your horoscope. You can always find something “true” if you let go of reality for a moment and leave yourself open to “mental suggestion.” Global warming is the same thing in a different package. If you just assume that it’s true, then of course everything you hear will just be confirmed in your psyche. It’s human nature.

    And it’s also human nature to accuse dissenters as being controlled by “the government” or “big oil” or ” election year politics” or whatever convenient baddie-of-the-day has an evil ring to it.

    Fine. But I’m still not buying it, fellas! I don’t accept the first two parts (that we are in an abnormal warming trend and that it’s because of human activity); not from denial, but because the evidence hasn’t been shown, and the scientific conversation has not yet been concluded. So, naturally to me, the third part (that we can fix it by changing our behavior) is NOT a foregone conclusion.

    Anyhow, I thank you all for this conversation, but I really don’t want to detract any further from the topic of the great article that Robert wrote…which was the relationship between German society (or maybe just the German car society) and the freedom and safety of the unrestricted autobahn.

    PS: Don’t forget to flash your lights and pass on the left. Slowpokes, please keep to the right. And EVERYBODY, please HANG UP THE DAMNED PHONE!

    :)

  • avatar
    Pch101

    On the issue of speed limits, at least one person at the beginning of this thread made the point that lowering speed limits too much will cause traffic jams. This is absolutely true. Imagine a 100 mile stretch of highway with most of hte traffic–say, 1000 cars, traversing it at 50 mph. Each of those cars will occupy the 100 mile stretch for two hours. If the cars are going 100 mph, they will occupy the s tretch for only an hour. Thus, halving the speed limit from 100 to 50mph would double the traffic on the highway.

    The belief that speed limits impact travel speeds is a common misconception, with many traffic studies concluding that this is not the case. Speed limits, whether high or low, are simply ignored by a large proportion of drivers, and have little or no effect on traffic flow because drivers continue to drive as they like.

    For one example, a study prepared by the Federal Highway Administration found that on various roadways on which speed limits were lowered by 5-20 mph or increased by 5-15 mph, the average change in the 85th percentile speed (the speed at which 85% of drivers travel at or below) changed by less than 2 mph. This amount did not vary significantly whether the change in the speed limit was large or small. Other studies have reached similar conclusions.

    In the absence of other efforts, such as public awareness campaigns, the only factor that is signifcantly affected by changes in speed limit is the level of compliance. When limits are high, few drivers will violate them; with low limits, violator rates increase as drivers continue to drive at roughly the same speeds,including formerly legal speeds made illegal by the limit reductions. If you impose a 50 mph speed limit in an area with 80+ mph traffic such as an autobahn or freeway, you’ll end up with a lot of 80+ mph drivers who are now classified as violators, while traffic moves at about the same speeds that it did before.

    http://www.dot.state.oh.us/dist1/planning/TrafficStudies/2hj01!.pdf

  • avatar
    Pch101

    So where does that leave us with global warming? If we can’t decide on coffee, who’s to say that our Brainiac scientists won’t change their minds in ten years (as I have no doubt that they will) and start saying that oh, oops, we’re really experiencing a decline in temperature? Oh that’s right, that happened once already, and they started calling it “climate change” instead of “global warming.”

    So now you’ve transitioned from “some scientists dispute it” to “who cares what those flip-flopping scientists think.” Talk about being unable to stick to a story…

    You have to forgive me if that sounds to me like a preconceived conclusion in search of support, a theory that is frustrated by the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of support for it to be found outside of a fringe cable “news” channel.

    The science is what it is, and while it is still a moving target, most of it is against you and will likely go increasingly against you as the studies continue. If you wish to differ with the prevailing view from scholarly sources, that’s fine, but then you should offer some compelling reasons to believe that your argument is somehow better.

    The lack of a fact-based position leads me to believe that the climate-change-ain’t-happenin’ camp is building its theories largely on wishful thinking. rather than research and scholarship. While I ain’t no Chicken Little, I’m not a Pollyanna, either.

  • avatar
    tom

    I live in Germany and my regular drive is a 85 hp Opel Astra Diesel. That may sound way underpowerd, but on a flat stretch I can get it above 200 km/h (125 mph). The speed I usually travel comfortably with on the Autobahn is 160-180 km/h (100-115 mph) and my fuel consumtion is at about 5 litres per 100 km (that’s well above 40 mpg) even though I’m well above 75 mph on unrestricted stretches. So I don’t buy into that CO2 argument.

    Of course if I take my dad’s SLK 350 for a trip, I can easyly hit the 155 mph limiter and out accelerate most cars on the road and by doing so get less then 15 mpg. But gas in Germany is already quite expensive (Today it’s around 1.34€/litre regular gas which roughly equals 3.9$/gal). That’s why you see so many Diesels (nowadays diesel cars outsell regular cars here). So that’s the tool our government already works with and it indeed shows some effects.

    An aditional 75 mph speed limit is nothing but the revenge of eco-nazis who want to force their views onto everyone else or who are just jealous at people with big engines and instead of working hard for their money rather want to force others into the same misery they’re in.

    Thankfully we Germans like our Autobahn and I really doubt anyone could change that from within. The EU is a much bigger threat. They’ve been trying to establish a speed limit here forever, especially the French who begrudge us everything. The Euro for example was the price we had to pay for our Reunification to the French who wanted to have a part of our strong currency.
    I still don’t think the EU will succeed on that though. It’s just none of their business. The only problem with logic is that it doesn’t seem to apply in Europe.

  • avatar
    Luther

    The stuff coming out a tailpipe is the exact same stuff that has naturally seeped from the earth and oceans for billions of years at billions of times the rate than Man produces. To believe that Man is causing so-called Global Warming with CO2 production is like believing someone peeing off Nantucket Island is causing shoreline polution in Ireland.

    Why would anybody believe “Scientists” (Political?) that claim Global Warming is occuring when they cannot even accuratey predict the weather three days in advance (Hint: Check where their paychecks comes from). There is no way of knowing global warming or cooling is occuring with present technology. It would require Trillions of temp/pressure/humidity sensors placed across the globe to measure aggregate temps. Idiot Box broadcasts of glaciers melting and cute Polar Bears stranded on a piece of floating ice is not science, it is indoctrination.

    The Global Warming scam is perpetuated by your Rulers and their Goebbels-loving broadcast media toadies. Its purpose is to rob you.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I was on the sacred autobahn a few times, there were traffic jams, then everyone went 120 kph otherwise. just like in the us. People drive better tho, they stay to the right.

    also, denying the co2 is an atmospheric problem – wherever it comes from, is kinda silly. Defending your personal use of cars that produce too much of it will not help the cause. Co2 IS a problem, we need to face it, and do what it takes to address it. Denial only pushes us to the lunitic fringe, not to be paid attention to in any serious discourse. We are seeing problems with the ice caps now, the oceans are heating up, this is not good. We may have discussions about why that is, but dismissing it as (amazingly) a way to get more taxes, for instance, makes me wonder about one’s ultimite motivation. Hardly helpful. Kinda funny, in a scratching your head sort of way.
    And tom, i like france better than germany, in general.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    I’d like to know what the ‘true cost’ of dealing with mountains of horse crap in the late 1800’s was…
    Or, the ‘true cost’ of people dying at 40 because of poorly heated homes or a 2 day trip to the doctor…

    Given that a large percentage of greens complain about the ‘true cost’ of carbon fuels and the ‘effects’ of CO2, you’d think they’d be all for a reasonable expansion of nuclear fission generation.

    But no.
    Malthusiasts and luddites are not reasonable.
    CO2 is now the big focus – modern cars emit 99% less pollutants than cars made 30 years ago – so CO2 is legal elephant gun greens try to use to have us all driving four cylinder bread boxes on 13″ tires.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Why would anybody believe “Scientists” (Political?) that claim Global Warming is occuring when they cannot even accuratey predict the weather three days in advance

    Perhaps you’re not familiar with the financial Random Walk Theory — long-term trends are predictable, but short-term trends are not. The short-term changes are subject to variability, but these inputs are smoothed out over the long-term and can be forecast with some accuracy.

    The irony is that it is the polticians who dispute global warming, not the scientific community. The Bush Administration has consistently sought to spin a story that there is some dispute or disagreement about climate change, when there is actually near-universal consensus on the topic. The political games are being played by the naysayers who make unsubstantiated claims, not by those who are actually conducting the research.

  • avatar
    tom

    The question shouldn’t be “Is there something like global warming?” but rather “How do speed limits affect the global climate?”

    Apart from that, in a few years time we’ll all be driving with BTL Fuels (Biomass To Liquid). Those fuels combined with filtering techniques like in Mercedes BluTec Diesels mean that not too long from now, we’ll be driving 0-emission cars.

  • avatar

    The promoters of speed limits here have several arguments at hand, each of which is silly:
    1) Security: Everybody will be happy and safe on the Autobahn provided there is a speed limit. Simple not true, as statistics show.
    2) Co2 emission: Simply irrelevant, even if you believe in this “global warming” crap.
    3) Fuel consumption: We are soooo dependent on oil that we can’t afford driving faster than 120 km/h. Silly, as the speed you may drive occasionally doesn’t tell anything about your overall fuel consumption.

    Nevertheless, a strange mixture of pompous asses in politics and media and people who cannot see anyone having fun ore are simply envious, ore cannot drive properly are trying again and again to bring this topic on the aganda. Thank God they are still a minority here.

  • avatar
    son of Bob Lutz

    ZoomZoom wrote:

    “Nevermind that some cities actually have heavier traffic and yet cleaner air than in prior decades…”

    That scenario actually proves a point for environmental regulation. Vehicles in prior decades were operating without catalytic converters, variable valve timing, exhaust gas recirculation, etc. Smog related emissions were designated as “criteria pollutants” by the EPA (over the strenuous objections of most auto manufacturers) and emissions of those pollutants per vehicle-mile driven have decreased dramatically.

    Regarding CO2, vehicles (or “mobile sources”) represent the low hanging fruit in a nation’s effort to reduce emissions. Fossil fuel power plants typically acheive percent efficiencies (ratio of energy output to energy input via the fuel) in the high 30s to low 40s. A vehicle is very efficient if it breaks 15%. It’s much easier (not to mention less expensive) to double efficiency when you’re dealing with such a low figure.

    I’m of the opinion, however, that we’re beyond the global warming break point and that the only way to avoid a death spiral of increasing temperatures is to engineer our way out, rather than conserve our way out. We’ll need to improve upon today’s methods of carbon sequestration and actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

    Until then, conservation can’t hurt.

  • avatar
    Shelby0099

    Pch101 writes:The irony is that it is the polticians who dispute global warming, not the scientific community.

    Jerseydevil writes: also, denying the co2 is an atmospheric problem – wherever it comes from, is kinda silly. Defending your personal use of cars that produce too much of it will not help the cause. Co2 IS a problem, we need to face it, and do what it takes to address it. Denial only pushes us to the lunitic fringe, not to be paid attention to in any serious discourse. We are seeing problems with the ice caps now, the oceans are heating up, this is not good. We may have discussions about why that is, but dismissing it as (amazingly) a way to get more taxes, for instance, makes me wonder about one’s ultimite motivation. Hardly helpful. Kinda funny, in a scratching your head sort of way.

    Lunatic fringe indeed:

    The following is excerpted from: “Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Scientific Consensus”- by Richard S. Lindzen (Vol.15 No. 2, Spring 1992

    “Most of the literate world today regards “global warming” as both real and dangerous. Indeed, the diplomatic activity concerning warming might lead one to believe that it is the major crisis confronting mankind. ….I must state at the outset, that, as a scientist, I can find no substantive basis for the warming scenarios being popularly described. Moreover, according to many studies I have read by economists, agronomists, and hydrologists, there would be little difficulty adapting to such warming if it were to occur. …..The crude idea in the common popular presentation of the greenhouse effect is that the atmosphere is transparent to sunlight (apart from the very significant reflectivity of both clouds and the surface), which heats the Earth’s surface. The surface offsets that heating by radiating in the infrared. The infrared radiation increases with increasing surface temperature, and the temperature adjusts until balance is achieved. If the atmosphere were also transparent to infrared radiation, the infrared radiation produced by an average surface temperature of minus eighteen degrees centigrade would balance the incoming solar radiation (less that amount reflected back to space by clouds). The atmosphere is not transparent in the infrared, however. So the Earth must heat up somewhat more to deliver the same flux of infrared radiation to space. That is what is called the greenhouse effect……The simple picture of the greenhouse mechanism is seriously oversimplified. Many of us were taught in elementary school that heat is transported by radiation, convection, and conduction. The above representation only refers to radiative transfer. As it turns out, if there were only radiative heat transfer, the greenhouse effect would warm the Earth to about seventy-seven degrees centigrade rather than to fifteen degrees centigrade. In fact, the greenhouse effect is only about 25 percent of what it would be in a pure radiative situation. The reason for this is the presence of convection (heat transport by air motions), which bypasses much of the radiative absorption….. Many studies from the nineteenth century on suggested that industrial and other contributions to increasing carbon dioxide might lead to global warming. Problems with such predictions were also long noted, and the general failure of such predictions to explain the observed record caused the field of climatology as a whole to regard the suggested mechanisms as suspect…..Indeed, the global cooling trend of the 1950s and 1960s led to a minor global cooling hysteria in the 1970s. ……The present hysteria formally began in the summer of 1988, although preparations had been put in place at least three years earlier. That was an especially warm summer in some regions, particularly in the United States. The abrupt increase in temperature in the late 1970s was too abrupt to be associated with the smooth increase in carbon dioxide. Nevertheless, James Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in testimony before Sen. Al Gore’s Committee on Science, Technology and Space, said, in effect, that he was 99 percent certain that temperature had increased and that there was some greenhouse warming. He made no statement concerning the relation between the two….Despite the fact that those remarks were virtually meaningless, they led the environmental advocacy movement to adopt the issue immediately. The growth of environmental advocacy since the 1970s has been phenomenal……In the spring of 1989 I prepared a critique of global warming, which I submitted to Science, a magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The paper was rejected without review as being of no interest to the readership…..At the same time, political pressures on dissidents from the “popular vision” increased. Sen. Gore publicly admonished “skeptics” in a lengthy New York Times op-ed piece. In a perverse example of double-speak he associated the “true believers” in warming with Galileo. He also referred, in another article, to the summer of 1988 as the Kristallnacht before the warming holocaust…..The notion of “scientific unanimity” is currently intimately tied to the Working Group I report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued in September 1990. That panel consists largely of scientists posted to it by government agencies. The panel has three working groups. Working Group I nominally deals with climate science. Approximately 150 scientists contributed to the report, but university representation from the United States was relatively small and is likely to remain so, since the funds and time needed for participation are not available to most university scientists…..Methodologically, the report is deeply committed to reliance on large models, and within the report models are largely verified by comparison with other models. Given that models are known to agree more with each other than with nature (even after “tuning”), that approach does not seem promising. In addition, a number of the participants have testified to the pressures placed on them to emphasize results supportive of the current scenario and to suppress other results……..As Aaron Wildavsky, professor of political science at Berkeley, has quipped, “global warming” is the mother of all environmental scares. Wildavsky’s view is worth quoting. “Warming (and warming alone), through its primary antidote of withdrawing carbon from production and consumption, is capable of realizing the environmentalist’s dream of an egalitarian society based on rejection of economic growth in favor of a smaller population’s eating lower on the food chain, consuming a lot less, and sharing a much lower level of resources much more equally.” In many ways Wildavsky’s observation does not go far enough. The point is that carbon dioxide is vitally central to industry, transportation, modern life, and life in general. It has been joked that carbon dioxide controls would permit us to inhale as much as we wish; only exhaling would be controlled. The remarkable centrality of carbon dioxide means that dealing with the threat of warming fits in with a great variety of preexisting agendas–some legitimate, some less so: energy efficiency, reduced dependence on Middle Eastern oil, dissatisfaction with industrial society (neopastoralism), international competition, governmental desires for enhanced revenues (carbon taxes), and bureaucratic desires for enhanced power…. Regulatory apparatuses would restrict individual freedom on an unprecedented scale. Here too, however, one cannot expect much resistance to proposed actions–at least not initially. Public perceptions, under the influence of extensive, deceptive, and one-sided publicity, can become disconnected from reality…..Public misperceptions coupled with a sincere desire to “save the planet” can force political action even when politicians are aware of the reality.
    ….What the above amounts to is a societal instability. At a particular point in history, a relatively minor suggestion or event serves to mobilize massive interests. While the proposed measures may be detrimental, resistance is largely absent or coopted. In the case of climate change, the probability that the proposed regulatory actions would for the most part have little impact on climate, regardless of the scenario chosen, appears to be of no consequence. ”

    The entire article can be found here: http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv15n2/reg15n2g.html

    Yes, this was written in 1992, but do we know how clouds work? Are there still fudge factors in the models? Please look at the big picture and then ask, where is the lunatic fringe?

  • avatar
    Shelby0099

    from: Global warming ‘proof’ detected
    By Richard Black
    BBC News environment correspondent-April 28, 2005

    “Computer climate models have grown much more sophisticated over the years. But there are still problems modelling some atmospheric processes, notably heat convection within clouds. ”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4495463.stm

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Please look at the big picture and then ask, where is the lunatic fringe?

    Perhaps “lunatic fringe” is a bit strong. I’ll let you decide what an appropriate term is for one who:

    -Takes a minority opinion, and presumes that it negates the prevailing majority opinion of his peers.

    -Equates an article in a politically-motivated journal (the Cato Institute is a political libertarian thinktank, not a scientific organization) with literally hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that reach a vastly different conclusion.

    It is not difficult to find some scientists who dispute the notion of climate change. What is difficult to find is a substantial number of scientists who share these beliefs. They are vastly outnumbered by others who disagree, and who have studied the subject in depth, subject to peer review.

    Not all opinions are created equal. As of today, the climate change skeptics do exist, but they are in a rather tiny minority. Pretending that their view is a prevalent view is, at the very least, inaccurate. Perhaps they will be ultimately proven right, but given the vast support for the opposing view by those who have studied it, I’m not willing to bet the farm on the underdog.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    Shelby0099:

    The CATO institute is a political organization, not a scientific one. The mentioned journal is not a peer reviewed document. It is political opinion.

    You would be hard pressed to find any reputable scientific organization with an interest in this area who will deny that we are having a problem with co2 as it realtes to global warming. What you will find is varied opinions on why it is happening.

    And even if you could find such a scientist, remember there are “scientists” who think evolution is a myth, the holocost never happened, and that the earth is flat.

  • avatar
    Shelby0099

    “Takes a minority opinion, and presumes that it negates the prevailing majority opinion of his peers.”

    I was merely responding to a previous comment which seemed to label skeptics of global warming as on the lunatic fringe. I presumed that posting points from this article would place the formation of the belief of global warming within context. I think that article illustrates the lunacy, wishful thinking and egomaniacal grabs for power that pushed this belief into mainstream thought.

    I also thought it might be prudent to not neglect the worrisome state of our current society where most of the public (voting & non voting age) do not question the credibility of scientists. Especially when large and significant portions of their science which supports their theories are either unknown (i.e. clouds), exaggerated, ignored or worse yet, fudged. I would like to think that notion might cause some healthy doubt about the “consensus” of this belief.

    Equates an article in a politically-motivated journal (the Cato Institute is a political libertarian thinktank, not a scientific organization) with literally hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that reach a vastly different conclusion.

    And the UN’s IPCC is NOT a politically-motivated organization?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    So, Shelby, allow me to understand your position:

    -The only good science is the science that concurs with your position

    -A scientific view that is widely held is less credible than a view that is unusual and atypical

    -Peer reviewed studies in scientific journals are not relevant, while articles in right-wing political journals are relevant

    -A conclusion reached by numerous scientific bodies and held by the vast majority of the scientific community is negated because a UN organization also holds that view.

    I apologize if I look at that chain of thought, and can only doubt what possible logic or merit it might have. The conclusions are not supported by fact or reason, and require a willingness to ignore virtually all of the available evidence that has been subject to rigorous review, in favor of a political diatribe that was not subject to same.

    In other words, accepting your thesis makes it necessary to embrace the very same politics-above-science approach that you repudiated in your earlier posts. I do hope that you can see the irony and inconsistency inherent to your position.

  • avatar
    tom

    The mistake that the IPCC made is to publish Mann’s Hockey Stick Curve that supposedly describes the earth’s climate of the last 2000 years.
    This curve has been proven to be wrong and to be based on false and selective data. If you look at the actual report by the UN and IPCC, it’s not as simplistic and has a more balanced view, but the official press release was quite short and lurid and used the Hockey Stick Curve as central piece for their argument that we’re all going to hell.

    Of course now many people have doubts if the IPCC publishes anything again, even if it turns out to be right this time. Personally I believe that climate changes constantly since earth came into existence, but I also don’t doubt that mankind also plays a role in this process. The question remains if it is reasonable to put all the energy into CO2 reduction or if there might be better, more efficient ways to deal with it.

    Here is a critical article. It’s quite long, but if you have 10 minutes to spare, I advise you to read it. It’s humorous and can give you some new perspectives on an old issue:

    http://www.maxeiner-miersch.de/piece_of_the_action.htm

  • avatar
    bestertester

    hello everybody, i am new here, and here’s the first thing i have to say.

    the truth about autobahns… is that they do not work so well.

    if you want to drive quick and smooth, then try a French or Swiss freeway. you will be able to do a constant 70-90 mph (slower in muni, faster in rural areas) without too much stress.

    In Germany, you have a choice of taking the slow right lane at truck’s speed (i.e. 55 mph) or adapting to the hectic, stressful and inefficient pace of the left lane.

    driving on the fast lane is characterized by constant accelerating up to at least 100mph (which is the speed the bossy executive-car crew has chosen) and then braking down to 65 mph whenever some family person has summoned the nerves to switch from slow-lane to fast.

    it is ecologically inefficient, what with all the speed changes. it gets on my nerves because i like a good fast cruise and i do not find the accelerative urge so satisfying as some might.

    and this may be my most important point: traffic scientists have proven that it wastes valuable freeway space. you get less cars-per-road-mile when all the speeding-up and slowing-down is taken into consideration, and this helps explain why autobahns are clogged so often — something you get less often in speed-regulated France and Switzerland, by the way.

  • avatar
    tom

    @bestertester:

    I think you’re partially right, but mostly wrong. It’s true that if you are on the wrong German Autobahn at the wrong time it is a pain in the ass. But that’s mostly because of the increasing number of trucks. Germany is in the middle of “old and new Europe” and on the main routes (e.g. A1, A2) the far right lanes are usually truck only. Switzerland has less transit routes and less industry that needs this amount of truck traffic. Plus it’s just less convenient to travel through because of the alps and the less developed highway system.

    No matter where you’re from and where you’re going to in Europe, you usually have to cross Germany. Again, it’s mostly trucks, but private traffic as well. In France and Switzerland everyone has to pay to use the Freeways. In Germany it’s only heavy commercial trucks and even that’s a very recent development.

    If you’re on a German Autobahn you’ll not only see a lot of German cars and heavy trucks but also heaploads of vehicles fromm all over Europe and since eastern Europe joined the EU, we get an increasing amount of trucks and cars from that area as well.

    Also, I think your logic is flawed. No matter if you have a limit or not, if someone passes a truck with 65 mph on a two lane road you obviously can’t go faster than 65 mph. But again, the problem is the amount of traffic at certain times, not the speed limit respectively the lack thereof. A speed limit will not make the traffic go away. Also, and this might have escaped you, not having a speed limit doesn’t mean that you can travel as fast as your car allows you to, but that you can drive as fast as the conditions allow you to. So if there’s a lot of traffic, bad luck to me and I can only drive 65 mph, but if the conditions are better, great, 155 here I come.

    So where is the point in a speed limit again? If there’s traffic I can’t go faster than 65 anyway and if there’s no traffic you want to take my freedom away for my own good so that I can go faster by driving slower…? Doesn’t sound very believable…

    And there is nowhere, neither in France nor in Switzerland where you can legally drive 90 mph, so you might be able to drive smoothly, but not fast. And to be honest, I don’t even think that you can drive smoothly in Switzerland. There are too many curves and altitude differences to be relaxed. And if you’re in Switzerland during the winter you have a whole new problem to cope with.

    In France however I agree that you can travel quite relaxed. But if you want to have both, fast and smooth, you have to go to Germany at night…

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Germany, for the record, has twice the highway deaths per capita that we do. We meaning USA.

    Just so you know.

  • avatar
    tom

    Germany, for the record, has twice the highway deaths per capita that we do. We meaning USA.

    Just so you know.

    I know you shouldn’t always trust Wikipedia, but the link that ref gave us looks solid and the numbers are:

    Killed per 1 Billion Veh·Km on Motorways:
    Germany 3.8
    United States 5.2

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road-traffic_safety#Motorway

    I know this is not the same as “per capita” but I doubt that Germans travel that much more in order for them to have twice the deaths per capita.

  • avatar
    Ronan

    Horrible idea..the Nurburgring,where I drive periodically, is technically apublic road most of the the time..imagine a 75mph speed limit.

    I have run fast on the autobahns quite often, and they are quite safe.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    i love cars. i enjoy driving fast. and yet, i am also a dedicated environmentalist and have been for more than 25 years. so how does one reconcile these apparently incompatible interests? terrapass would be a good place to start.

    http://www.terrapass.com

    however, it seems to me that one significant part of the problem we confront regarding our care of and concern for the earth’s environment is somehow similar in nature to the problem we ttac posters have even reaching a concensus on this particular topic – and that is, acknowledging the realities that confront us and taking appropriate action thereafter.

    let’s face facts. human beings – as a species – are greedy, aggressive and self-centered. these traits are among the qualities that have enabled us to evolve into the top predator on this planet, and unfortunately, these very same qualities will most likely be responsible for our eventual demise. people just ‘want to do’ what they ‘want to do,’ whether or not it is actually in their – or anyone’s – best interests.

    how sad. for all of us.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • punkairwaves: At a pre-pandemic auto show I never gave a thought to the seats of any of the vehicles I sat in until I...
  • Arthur Dailey: If you can find lumber. Currently in Southern Ontario at least there is a shortage. The large home...
  • Arthur Dailey: Paul Kersey drove one of these square Fox body T-Birds in Death Wish II.So at least it some cultural...
  • mfrank: Got any stories about GM’s venomous culture? Is GM a sinking ship and will Marry go down with the ship?
  • golden2husky: Have some time? Any carpentry skills? If so, do what I did – make your own. I made a continuous...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber