News Flash: Inflation & Intrusive Government Killed The Dinosaurs

Dateline:  Thermopolis, Wyoming

New evidence uncovered in a dig located on nearby Warm Springs Ranch appears to disprove the popular theory that high CO2 levels – produced by an aversion to hybrid-electric vehicles – may have killed off the dinosaur.  Prior evidence – notably the co-located fossilized remains of certain carnivorous dino-species and early off-road vehicles – appeared, on first glance, to support the popular CO2 theory. 

Now, however, those initial assumptions appear to be under pressure.  The new evidence, which paleontologists characterize as “puzzling”, includes massive deposits of newly discovered fossilized Jurassic money alongside tiny portable gas containers in the same geological strata.  Initial theories suggest the possibility that an inability to provide affordable fuel may, in the end, have resulting in a major disruption to the dinosaur economy and, ultimately, starvation.  Alternative theories are also being promoted in some quarters, notably that government regulations that prevented the development of new fuels, technology, or resources may also have played a role.

Alas, silly as that sounds, you have to wonder just how silly the current approach to both economic stimulus and, as it happens, so-called “best practices” really is.  For a start, we might easily imagine just how tough survival is going to get under the current fiscal and monetary approaches to economic stimulus.  As dangerous as that might prove to be, however, the “best-practises” label has become a stunning example of double-speak.

Consider the following examples:

Water Resource Planning & Conservation:  Pile up as many people as possible in urban centers, pipe water from distant, upstream watersheds and/or diminishing aquifers, treat and dump in the ocean and/or surface streams.   Threaten to confiscate “under-utilized” or “abandoned” water claims/ rights.  Make it increasingly difficult and expensive to utilize the time-tested, passive, temporary use of water resources in highly efficient well/drainfield systems.

Energy Conservation:  Encourage the development of appliances, cars, and other durable goods use less energy but, due their complexity and other regulatory factors of production are inherently more expensive and short-lived, requiring frequent, costly, and energy intensive replacement.  Pay rebates to encourage more frequent replacement.  Don’t consider the conservation benefits of promoting a longer service life.

Emissions and Air Quality:  Pretend to care about air quality by displacing manufacturing activities to countries with lower emission standards and longer shipping distances.  Promote the development of more complex technological solutions that, as above, prove to be inherently more expensive and short-lived, resulting in higher life-cycle energy use and emissions.  Prevent the market from providing more affordable, longer-lasting solutions if they compete with domestic producers or otherwise fail to meet minimum performance standards.

I could go on, and may well take a more detailed look at the above subjects in the future.  But, for now, I’m a bit more interested to know:  Why there are so few diesel cars available on the US market?

There’s not a lot of information out there on this subject, but did find this article in Popular Mechanics to be somewhat helpful.  The article notes that diesel cars account for more than 50% of the European market.  It goes on the suggest that diesel cars simply aren’t popular in America, since gas prices here are so much lower than in the highly taxed European market. 

That all may be, but if you’ve seen the popularity (and premiums paid) for VW TDI’s, as one example, or the rising popularity (despite the high cost) of the Toyota Prius, you have to wonder if those conclusions are really true.  In my own search for an affordable TDI wagon, I can tell you that the premium commanded in the market is much higher than the mere cost of the diesel components.  I tend to think it’s a function of supply and demand, notably a shortage of supply. 

My reading of the above-noted article, by the way, coincided with a recent viewing of a European review of the 2009 Prius on the UK’s popular BBC show, “Top Gear”.  Their take on this wildly popular high-tech solution to energy efficiency was, in a word, laughter.  At the core, the cost and performance of this “eco-friendly” car was, in their opinion, rather sub-standard for a market well acquainted with ubiquitous diesel cars regularly producing between 50 and 70 mpg.  Yawn.

Their most recent review, it may be noted, is a bit more positive.  Still, they add, “But none of the above really matters. Eco warriors with knowledge medals pinned to their hair shirts had started to worry about the whole life costs of the previous Prius, how much damage was being done to the environment in the making and shipping.”

And, that’s really my point here.  Why go through all of these technological gymnastics when decidedly “old-tech” has long-lasting, long-tested, solutions?  Why not start with the notion that conservation maybe should include consideration of longer service lives, adaptive re-use, modular replacement and repair techniques, simpler (and more affordable) design.  Wow, how novel.

One More Relevant Example:  I recently had to replace a full-sized freezer after my last, eight-year-old replacement died.  The manufacturer, fully endorsed with a government sponsored “Energy Star” rating, proudly promotes that I’ll save maybe $20 per year in energy consumption.  That’s about 133 kilowatt-hours, give or take at $0.15 per kwh.  At a total cost of $750, however, I’ll be paying roughly $94 per year in depreciation, lining myself up for the next replacement.

In the meantime, my 1950s vintage Frigidaire shop fridge, looking something like a mixture between a ’57 Chevy and Buck Rodgers spaceship, is plugging along just fine.  In fact, I don’t think you could kill it if you tried.  It’s actually almost too cold.  Imagine that. 

Oh, this antique surely uses “too much energy” by the state’s standards.  Yeah, no doubt.  In fact, the state’s actually got a bounty on this criminal appliance.  They’ll pay me to turn it in and get a new, well-behaved “Energy Star” model.  ‘Course, they’re using my money to buy me off.

The thing is, I’m not sure that’s a good trade.  It might actually make more sense to adapt those great, indestructible, “old-tech” innards to a more thickly insulated box, a project that is on my “to do” list, as it happens.  Now, if I could figure out a good way to produce a simple diesel car in the US (and quite printing so much money and useless regulations) we might just last a bit longer than the dinosaurs.

Harry Tuttle




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