Sunday, April 02, 2006

Always Consider The Things Unseen

Some food for thought in this Brian Tiemann post:

This is interesting:

The findings? America's most expensive vehicle in calendar 2005 was the Maybach (presumably a 62), tallying up at a staggering $11.58/mile. The thriftiest? Scion's boxy xB, just $.48 cents/mile.

But here's where it gets interesting: CNW's findings indicate that a hybrid consumes more energy overall than a comparable conventionally powered model. It judged showed that the Honda Accord Hybrid rang up an Energy Costs Per Mile of $3.29, while a gas-powered Accord was significantly cheaper at $2.18/mile. The study concludes that the average of all 2005 U.S. market vehicles was $2.28/mile.

The reasoning goes that hybrids use up more energy to manufacture, as well as consume more resources in terms of the assembly (and eventual disposal) of things like batteries and motors. By CNW's reckoning, the intrinsically lower complexity of, say, a Hummer H3 ($1.949/mile) actually results in lower total energy usage than any hybrid currently on the market, and even a standard Honda Civic ($2.42).

You mean it's not all just about the gas? Electricity doesn't just magically come out of a hole in the wall to power the clean cars that the Stonecutters are holding back from us? There's actual industry behind creating the things we use—industry that operates at scales far beyond anything we can affect through our own pitiful individual human actions?

This month's Road & Track has a "Tech Tidbits" segment on oil consumption. In an aside, it notes that a single cargo ship, during a single hour of maneuvering coming into port, puts out as much pollution as 350,000 cars; the clouds of diesel fumes travel hundreds of miles inland and settle in urban basins. And yet we agonize over five extra miles per gallon and the difference between ULEV and Super-ULEV.

The Audi dealer told me of a woman who had recently bought a new car there, and had specified cloth seats because she was a vegan. But the steering wheel was leather-wrapped; so she paid out of her own pocket ($800) to have the car taken to a specialty interior outfitter, have the hand-stitched leather removed, and have a vinyl covering installed. The woman's rationale was that she didn't want to be responsible for any leather products being used in her car. But, er, well, the leather was already paid for, ma'am... that cow's already dead...

Also, check out Brian's V For Vendetta review.

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