[Rough Draft]

A weblog about god, doubt, insomnia, culture, baseball

4.22.2004

get smart

i don't venture into politics much on here. maybe it's b/c i'm always so ambivalent about politics in general; maybe it's b/c i'm a democrat @ heart but i always pull for the home team, so i buck the liberal trend and don't necessarily want dubya to fail just b/c he plays for the visitors and we want his house back; maybe it's b/c, when it comes to politics, i often know less than i think i know.

case in point: bush's state of the union contained this big spiel about children born today driving, as their first cars, automobiles powered by hydrogen fuel cells that emit only water. "i'm on board!," i exclaimed. now, methinks meself to have been a bit naive. but then i caught npr's robert siegel's interview w/ matt wald that raised my eyebrows. the gist was (in non-techno-geek speak) that hydrogen cells to power cars are way, way away from mass production, although billions of r&d dollars have gone into the project. once the technology is developed, the cars will likely go for something in excess of 15 times the cost of a standars car in the u.s. and to make matters worse, hydrogen ain't the easiest or cleanest fuel to make. as it stands, you either have to use electicity to generate hydrogen (thereby burning fossil fuels and releasing pollution) or burn coal to make it (which ranks among the absolute worst, i.e., "dirtiest," of the fuels we now use). it's horribly inefficient to strive for the h-car (like my cutesy term?) w/ technology as it now is. it is indeed possible to make hydrogen via solar or wind power, but given a limited number of windmills, it's more efficient ecologically to use the energy produced by hydrogen to replace the dirtiest fuels first, namely coal, and only then would we get around to replacing natural gas, which is relatively clean in contrast to coal.

now, that's the way i understood the interview. we discussed it tonight for a few seconds during the midweek red sox/west wing fest here @ 1509a johnson, and the consensus was that when bush made his big announcement, it was mainly a p.r. move -- but what's worse, he likely knew that he was lining the pockets of the oil and gas companies b/c (a) the technology isn't feasible yet (except for cell phones and similar small gadgets); (b) when it is feasible, it'll be terribly expensive; and (c) it's not the most efficient use of hydrogen @ first anyway, ecologically speaking.

what i want to know is this: countries in europe are paying out the wahoo for petrol, while until very recently in the u.s. it was cheaper to buy a gallon of gas than a gallon of bottled water! so europeans have had to learn to cope. some ride bikes. some use public transportation. most people who don't earn a gazillion buckaroos a month drive economy cars. and (drum roll please) they market the smart car.

ok, so i'm always the first one to want an orange glow-in-the-dark macintosh laptop, an i-pod and a vw beetle convertible. i'm a pop consumerist whore, the dream of any cutting edge ad agency, and renee' reminds me often. but forget for a minute that these cars look really cool, and that i was never a strong parallel parker to begin w/, and riddle me this: why in the wide, wide world of sports don't we market these things in the u.s.? the models sold in the u.k. have lower co2 emissions than "regular" cars and get almost 60 mpg. daimler-chrysler does plan a limited model launch in the u.s. in 2006, but they're talking about "smart suv's" now and don't appear to be releasing the full line of the little-bittys, @ least not @ first. i know, i know -- somehow the oil companies have got to have a hand in keeping this technology off our shores, and maybe the little shoeboxes just piddle themselves and crumple into submission when buffeted by the wind-blast of a passing cadillac escalade (one of any number of vehicles that i think should be banned from the american continent w/o delay just on general purposes (and, perhaps more importantly, b/c i can't afford one and they promote covetousness, a very anti-christian sentiment)). but i say "whatever, jack! give me a freakin' little car, and do it now!" maybe it's a good thing if gas jumps to a price commensurate w/ what the rest of the world is paying so we'll start valuing fuel conservation in our cars (more likely, however: alaskan wildlife preserve, buckle your seatbelts!). if i had the money, i'd go out and buy a hybrid tomorrow, w/ the station wagon in reserve for baby safety and all that michelen-man-type machismo (nota bene: possibly first sentence ever to include terms "station wagon" and "machismo").

i guess the thing is that i got sucked in by bush's hydrogen agenda, and now i'm embarassed. nevertheless, i'm thinking we've gotta start being practical some day, right? push hybrids. open u.s. markets to really fuel efficient cars, none of this 36 hwy, 28 city tiddlywinks. and while you're @ it, throw me in a turquoise laptop, a blackberry and a bag o' funyuns. i am still an american, after all.

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