The Booth Babe Chronicles: Greening The Hand That Feeds Me
Here’s my daily struggle: I like cars and I like (and greatly appreciate) how I make my living. But I also really like the Earth and nature and polar bears and would prefer mankind not relocate to some Total Recall-like Mars colony stocked with Evian, Luna bars and aliens with three boobs.
I love driving. I love driving fast, powerful cars that growl at me and throw me back in my seat. So do you guys and gals, which is why you read this site in the first place. But I also love breathing, and I love clean oceans and beaches, and I love waters not filled with oil that suffocates animals and destroys the livelihoods of fishermen all over our coasts. I love that a lot.
Yet I work at a job I have to fly into and sell the American public on one of the very things that is hastening the demise of our beautiful natural world. I know that cars are certainly not going away any time soon, but I don’t know how to balance these two issues.
What can we do about it? Here are our options thus far, none of which do enough good. We have hybrids, which are increasingly popular. An efficiency hybrid (as opposed to a performance hybrid) can save a tremendous amount of fuel over the lifetime of the vehicle and significantly lowers one’s carbon emissions while driving. But even if we all drove a hybrid and lowered our fuel consumption by half, would it be enough? Then, of course, there’s the debate over whether or not the manufacture of nickel metal hydride batteries creates a bigger carbon footprint than is saved while driving.
Ethanol looked like the green fuel of the future for a while, until people realized the ecological toll of growing all that corn, transporting it all over the place and having to import more corn to use for livestock food in its place was causing more harm than good.
Electric cars are great in theory and would save drivers a lot of money in fuel costs, but in most areas would still take a heavy ecological toll. Plugging into an electrical grid in the vast majority of the country still means you’re burning fossil fuels – as a nation nearly 50 percent of our electricity is generated from coal, and only 2.1 percent from non-hydro renewables like wind and solar power. (The rest is from gas, oil, nuclear and hydro power.) Less fossil fuels are used than filling up your gas tank would, but dirty fossil fuels are still used, and the dangers of coal power are something I could write another whole column about.
Hydrogen fuel cells sound great until you realize consider the impracticality of current technology. The production process is inefficient and it has a very low energy content per unit. Combine that with having to revamp the entire fuel infrastructure and it becomes a non-option, for present day at least.
We could all just walk, but then global transportation would go down the tubes and we wouldn’t be able to get our hands on all that cheap crap from China we’re addicted to buying. Wal-Mart would go out of business and we’d have to learn how to make out own toilet paper or *shudder* use our hands to wipe. Bicycles are made of metal from open pit mines, and that metal still has to be transported somehow – I don’t think a bike will cut it.
The thing is that none of these options is going to save the world. We could try to find the lesser evil, but at this point is it just slightly delaying the inevitable?
I don’t know what the answer is. I guess if I did I’d be a gazillionaire, profiting off the idea that will save the planet. I know I do what I can by recycling everything possible, trying to eat in-season and local when possible, eschewing water in disposable plastic bottles, washing my clothes exclusively in cold water and using those fancy light bulbs that save a bunch of electricity but kill us with mercury poisoning.
So you tell me – what do you think is our next best hope of building a green transportation infrastructure, starting with the auto industry? ‘Cause even horses fart methane gas, my HOA won’t let me have livestock and I really don’t want to share a spinning turntable with something that actually kicks when surly, as opposed to just daydreaming about it like me.
The Booth Babe is an anonymous auto show model who dishes about what really goes on behind the scenes. Read her blog at http://doyoucomewiththecar.blogspot.com. And if you treat her nicely, read her each Sunday at Thetruthaboutcars.com
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People should not worry too much. The Earth has many billions of years to go.
So here's what we do: #1: Revitalize the urban centers: give urban neighborhoods walkable grocery stores, clothing stores, libraries, good schools and office buildings/manufacturing buildings with jobs for people to go to. That way, people won't have to drive so much. #2: Urbanize the suburbs: break suburban sprawled neighborhoods down into smaller, urban-like chunks with the same things listed above, so that people won't have to drive so much. With so much suburban real estate available cheaply these days, some creative rezoning would help with this. #3: Expand ZipCar-like services for use by people who need to travel long distances on occasion, add motorcycle parking and bicycle racks to encourage smaller-footprint vehicular travel, and expand local public transit for people who can't get around on foot (the handicapped, the elderly, the injured and ill.) #4: Encourage shipping distribution methods for groceries and goods that rely (mostly) on trains/planes to move materials between hubs, and small efficient trucks to distribute from those hubs out to the urban centers (much like FedEx and UPS do currently.) #5: Start subsidizing growth of food that doesn't rely on oil to produce, and doesn't require polluting pesticides et al, and move away from factory farming to something more sustainable/less polluting. Will this ever happen? Dunno. I suppose it depends if you think it will happen now, before the damage gets worse, or later, when it's the only valid option we have left.