|John Polimeni, Kozo Mayumi, Mario Ciampietro, and Blake Alcott, The Jevons Paradox and the Myth of Resource Efficiency Improvements, Earthscan, 2008 London. ISBN 978-1-84407-462-4
Certainly, one would think that improvements in energy efficiency will reduce energy consumption and increase the effect of a given supply. Yet the point we want to make in this book is that this is not always the case. We aim to show that increased energy efficiency leads to increased demand and consumption of energy…. We have written this book to provide a warning that relying on energy efficiency and technology as a solution is foolhardy.
All oxidized molecules, unless they are recycled by means of further energy inputs, as with carbon sequestration, must count as ‘final’ output. Space heating can be defined by the time needed for the space to return to (lower) ambient temperature from that desired, but the higher-entropy energy is nevertheless part of output. Lumens rather than ‘lighting services’ can be measured, but light pollution and heat as a ‘by-product are also output. Steel cannot be made without ‘scrap’. While a ‘first-law- ratio must be one-to-one, ‘efficiency’ must be variable, perhaps leaving no way around some concept of utility: we must measure inputs only against the output we like. While GDP thus aggregates unsatisfactorily, physical or combined physical/utility metrics have not yet been found.
Today’s environmental efficiency strategy claims that an input’s more efficient use lowers its rate of consumption. The inverse/corollary of this is that were processes to become less efficient, we would consume the input at a higher rate. Or had technological efficiency increase remained unchanged – stopped, say, around 1781 with ‘the introduction of Watt’s engine, the pit-coal iron furnace, and the cotton factory’ (Jevons, p270) – we would, according to the strategy’s assumptions, today consume a hundred or a thousand times as much – of infinitely more – labour or cotton or fuel than we do today after over two centuries of efficiency increase. To maintain that rebound is less than 100 percent one must defend this conclusion.
A variety of regions and countries were presented in this chapter to illustrate how the widespread the Jevons Paradox may be. The countries included in the case studies were both economically and geographically diverse. The case studies include a developed country with a mediocre record on environmental conservation, a developed region with a strong environmental record, developing countries on the verge of ‘developed’ status, and a developing country actively promoting environmentally sensitive energy policies. The results strongly suggest that energy-efficient technological improvements as the solution for the world’s energy problems will not work, Rather, energy-efficient technology improvements are counter-productive, promoting energy consumption.
Barboza, Steven. The African American Book of Values: Classic Moral Stories. New York: 1998. ISBN 0385482590 Page 9
Be saving. Don’t burn lights unnecessarily. Be sure that the hot water faucet is turned off. Don’t leave the hose on too long in the back yard. Don’t drive the automobile around the corner when you can walk. Don’t turn the radio on in the morning and let it run all day. Don’t leave the outside doors wide open when the furnace is going full blast.
“But the Air Was Clean” By HENRY FOUNTAIN, The New York Times, June 22, 2004
[S]ure, it disrupted the lives of millions and cost the North American economy billions, but last summer’s blackout had one benefit, University of Maryland scientists say. Briefly, at least, the shutdown of more than 100 power plants cleaned up the air.
The scientists say air monitoring conducted over central Pennsylvania on Aug. 15, the second day of the blackout, showed sharply reduced concentrations of ozone and sulfur dioxide, which contribute to haze and
smog. Visibility increased by as much as 20 miles, the researchers said, as the concentration of light-scattering particles, primarily a function of sulfur dioxide emissions, was reduced by 70 percent. These findings are to be published in the next issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
For nearly two decades, Maryland researchers have been monitoring air quality in and around the state using small planes. A monitoring flight was in the air on Aug. 15 when scientists realized they had a chance to conduct unique research.
“It was an opportunity to quantify directly the contribution of power plants to haze and pollution,” said Dr. Lackson Marufu, an atmospheric chemist. So the plane was diverted to rural central Pennsylvania, downwind of shutdown power plants. The data from there was compared with same-day data from Northern Virginia and western Maryland, outside the blackout area, and with data from central Pennsylvania from a day in 2002 when wind and temperature conditions were similar.
The researchers also modeled the air movement throughout the region in the hours before and after the sampling flight. The simulations showed that the cleaner air reached Baltimore, New York and other East Coast cities. Dr. Marufu said they had expected to find cleaner air – after all, power plants are a major contributor to smog. “What surprised us was the extent that they influenced the regional air quality,” he said.
The scientists had to rely on simulations for the regional studies because there was little other data available that day. “The ground stations which normally monitor air quality were all down because of the blackout,” Dr. Marufu said.
by LLOYD STONE
Through dreamy eyes she gazed into the night
And murmured this, “Some day I’ll buy an isle
Out there….” (The sweeping gesture of her arm
Took in a generous portion of the world.)
“Some place that you and I can call Our Paradise;
Where life will be as simple as
In Eden; where all things will be –”
He spoke with genuine concern, “Now who’ll
Deliver all our groceries? And what
About a Frigidaire? And as for lights
We could resort to lamps, I guess, but who
Would fill them up with oil and trim the wicks;
And … Dear, in short, why I foresee all sorts
“So do I,” she muttered.
“Shall we dance?”
Smil, Vaclav. Energy: A Beginner’s Guide One World Publications, Oxford, 2006. ISBN 3:9781851684526
High-efficiency conversions clearly benefit economies and the environment, but they reduce overall energy use only on an individual or household level, of for a single company, particular industrial process, or entire production sector.
On national and global levels, the record shows the very opposite; there is no doubt that higher efficiencies of energy conversion have led to steadily greater consumption of fuels and electricity. This paradox was noted for the first time by Stanley Jevons (1835-1882), a prominent English economist, in 1865. In his words, “It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuels is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.” Jevons illustrated the phenomenon by contrasting the huge efficiency improvements of eighteenth-century steam engines (from Savery and Newcomen’s extremely wasteful machines to Watt’s improved design) with the large increases in British coal consumption.
Two examples illustrate this common phenomenon for modern energy-consuming activities. First, in 2006, the average American passenger vehicle (including SUVs) consumed about forty percent less fuel per kilometer than in 1960, but more widespread ownership of automobiles (two people per vehicle in 2005, compared to nearly three in 1970) and the higher annual average distance driven (roughly 20,000 km, compared to 15,000 km in 1960) resulted in average per caput consumption some thirty percent higher. Second, during the twentieth century, the efficiency of British street lighting rose about twenty-fold, but the intensity of this illumination (MWh per km of road) rose about twenty-five times, again more than eliminating all the efficiency gains.
So higher efficiencies have not resulted in lower overall demand for energy. Its growth has continued, albeit at a slower pace (as expected), even in mature, post industrial economies. In the 1990s, despite deep economic problems and the stagnation of its GDP, Japan’s average per caput energy consumption grew by fifteen percent; in the same period the already extraordinarily high US and Canadian rates grew by about 2.5 percent. Between 1980 and 2000 China, despite the unprecedented achievement of halving the energy intensity of its economy, more than doubled its per caput energy consumption. Replicating similar achievements in the coming decades would be challenging under any circumstances, but now we face the entirely new constraint of global warming.
Is efficient sufficient?
European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy – March 22, 2010
Efficiency policies and programs should therefore be measuring and judging their success by the extent to which they reduce the total energy consumption or greenhouse gas emissions resulting from a given end use, not by the extent to which they reduce energy consumed per person, per unit of service delivered, or per unit of GNP. The climate, alas, does not know or care how many of us are being served how well or made how wealthy by our energy use – it only keeps score on the basis of total greenhouse gases emitted into a fixed volume of atmosphere.
Stobaugh, Robert and Yergin, Daniel, editors. Energy Future. New York: Ballentine Books, 1979, Page 176
In November 1973, shortly after the Arab oil embargo went into effect, the DWP [Los Angeles Department of Water and Power] realized that 11 million barrels of already contracted North African low-sulphur oil (more than half its annual consumption of oil) would not be delivered. Early in December, newspapers ran stories with panic headlines like “What to Do When the Lights Go Out.”
Facing a substantial shortfall in electricity production, anxious city officials discussed ways to reduce consumption. They talked about limiting the work week, instituting rolling blackouts in various neighborhoods, and hiking prices massively. But they feared that major loss of jobs would result from reducing the work week, and that massive price hikes would arouse a storm of protest.
In the middle of December, an ad hoc committee, representing a broad coalition of civic, business, and labor leaders, came up with an alternative—to set mandatory targets for reductions for all customers—but to leave it to the customers themselves to implement the specific cuts. And so, in mid-December, the city council adopted a two-phased Emergency Energy Curtailment Plan, the purpose of which was to “significantly reduce the consumption of electricity over an extended period of time, thereby extending the available fuel required for the production of electricity, while reducing the hardships on the city and the general public to the greatest possible extent.” Under Phase I, to go into effect immediately, customers were to cut back on their use, compared to the same billing period of the previous year. There was a stiff penalty for non-compliance: a 50 percent surcharge on the entire bill. The aim was to reduce the city’s total electricity consumption by 12 percent.
Phase II, to go into effect at a later date, set higher targets. The penalty for non-compliance with Phase II was to be even more severe—a cutoff of service. But the city never needed to institute Phase II, because Phase I was so successful; moreover, penalties for Phase I were never even applied (although, of course, neither officials or consumers knew at the beginning that this would be the case.)
The response to the targets of Phase I, to everyone’s surprise, went far beyond the targets themselves.
The drop was 17 percent, against a target of 12 percent. Much of the adjustment in commercial establishments, which accounted for 50 percent of electricity usage prior to the cutback, was done mostly through better control of lighting and air-conditioning. The Los Angeles Dodgers met their target by the simple expedient of starting baseball games at 7:30 instead of 8pm.
Philip Hawley, head of the ad hoc mayor’s committee and chief author of the Los Angeles Plan, has observed, “It was important to tell people what was expected of them, to give them specific energy reduction targets…. Our job was to reduce the usage of energy, not to mandate lifestyles, not to reduce hours that businesses were open, and not to indulge in costly methods and select certain segments of the economy, but to protect employment to the maximum degree possible, and to try to do this in a way that would result in a minimum of job loss or preferably no job loss.”
In May 1974, two months after the Arab embargo was lifted, the program was suspended, but its impact could still be felt a year later; in May of 1975, the total electricity sales were 8 percent lower than the 1973 level. In addition, there had been a far greater reduction in DWP consumption than in that of the three other largest electric utilities in California, none of which had adopted such a program.
Juneau Saves Electricity in a Hurry
July-August 2008 Editorial, Home Energy Magazine
By Alan Meier, Editor
What do you do when the price of electricity suddenly jumps fivefold? This was the dilemma faced by the residents of Juneau, Alaska, when an avalanche suddenly cut the transmission line to their source of cheap hydropower. The answer is conserve, conserve, and (in case you weren’t paying attention), conserve. In only a few weeks, Juneau’s electricity consumption fell 30% (see Figure 1). This represents the largest and fastest regional reduction in electricity consumption without blackouts in recent history. Juneau easily surpassed the 2001 record held by Brazil—20% in a few months—and California’s 15% reduction in response to Enron and its friends.
But how exactly did the citizens of Juneau cut their electricity use? No careful study has been undertaken, but there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence. They focused first on saving what they could see and feel. The avalanche hit at the tail end of the heating season, so lower thermostats were the first target for action in the approximately 20% of homes that relied on electric heating.
Lighting was a target for conservation in homes, stores, and offices. Juneau became much more vigilant, switching off lights in unoccupied rooms and lowering light levels in rooms that were occupied. There’s also nothing like 55¢/kWh electricity to increase interest in CFLs. Indeed, the hardware stores quickly sold out (and couldn’t restock until the next barge arrived from Seattle).
Many homes in Juneau rely on electricity to heat water, so conserving hot water became popular. People took shorter showers and washed clothes at colder settings. Many discovered that their water heaters had thermostats that could be lowered, resulting in further savings.
Juneau had an unexpected introduction to the pervasive nature of standby power use in homes as people surveyed the number of appliances—from TVs, computers, and speakers to microwave ovens, digital picture frames, and set-top boxes—that constantly drew power. Sales of power strips soared as Juneau devised more convenient ways to unplug these devices.
And of course, people undertook some measures that backfired or didn’t save energy, such as raising the temperature settings of refrigerators (health risk); washing dishes by hand (much less efficient than running a full dishwasher); and frequently unplugging set-top boxes (delays in rebooting).
More important than any single measure, the citizens of Juneau put electricity conservation front and center in their daily life. They swapped tips and experiences at the grocery store, in the schools, and on talk shows. Conservation became not just acceptable, but popular.
Juneau will have celebrated its own kind of early Independence Day this June with the repair of the transmission line. Already people are asking how much conservation will persist after the rates drop. I am confident that demand will increase as people abandon the most inconvenient belt-tightening measures. But I predict that demand will never return to preavalanche levels. People won’t remove their CFLs or turn up the thermostat on their water heaters, and some of those conserving habits—well—seem like a good idea in any event.
From The Onion – 2003 The New Energy Bill
Congress is reworking legislation that addresses the nation’s electricity transmission problems. What’s in the new energy plan?
- Blackouts outlawed
- Reddy Kilowatt to come out of retirement to address crisis
- Improvements in power grid to more efficiently divert blame for electricity outages to Canada
- Americans asked to no longer pour electricity directly down drain
- Total deregulation of industry to free up companies to invest profits in updating the power grid
- Turning off blender when leaving the house now enforced by law
- Rolling blackouts to be renamed “Qlde Tyme Nights”
- Have some sub-committee check into solar panels and wind machines and all that crap
- “Back-up” power plants to be built on every fourth city-block
- U.S. citizen will be issued case of Sterno and a pisto
Kotler, Philip. Social Marketing. New York: 1989. ISBN 0029184614 Pages 102 and 154
Social marketers can use a variety of motivators to induce learning. For example, a social marketing campaign to change people’s perceptions of conserving electric energy used television and newspaper advertising to convey a fear message: “It is good to have electricity. Save, so you will not lack it.” The campaign took place right after a popular television show in Israel in 1980 that dramatized Israel’s overuse of electricity. The show’s host asked the audience to turn off all the extra lights in their homes. The viewers then saw the effect of their actions on their screen: a camera focused on the Israeli Electric Company’s electricity-consumption gauges. Within a few seconds, the gauges dropped sharply.
The vividness of the means-end relationship that this campaign demonstrated convinced viewers to use electricity more carefully. Deutsh and Liebermann estimated that the collective behavior saved Israel 6 percent in aggregate electricity consumption during the 8 months of the campaign….
When a product or a message communicating a product arises from a campaign or campaign staff that enjoys great credibility and respect, the likelihood that the product will be adopted is greatly increased.
For example, in 1978, to get customers to cut down on electricity consumption, one set of households received the campaign’s message from Con Edison (a low credibility source); a second set, from the New York State Public Service Commission (a high credibility source); and a third set, the control group, received no communications. The households received the marketing messages with their monthly electric bills. In the month following receipt of the energy-conservation communications, the electric bills of the three groups were compared. The two groups that received the electricity-conservation messages used significantly less electricity than did the group that received no such communication, and the group that received the message from the Public Service Commission used substantially less electricity than did the group that received the message from Con Edison.
James Howard Kunstler, “Virtual Is No Refuge From Reality – For children, no escape from America’s car-dependent, cheap-oil fiesta” Elm Street Writers Group 9/26/2003
One of the extremely painful lessons of our time, I’m convinced, will be that the virtual is not an adequate substitute for the real. It will be painful because the notion of virtuality has become a psychological crutch for a culture that is
recklessly destructive of real places, real experiences, real relationships with real people, and real notions of purposeful, decent behavior.
One of the most popular beliefs of the computer era has been that virtual places are every bit as okay as real places. This idea gained popularity in direct proportion to the spread of immersively ugly, monotonous, dysfunctional suburban environments through the 1980s and 90s. The more our nation came to be composed of crappy housing subdivisions, highway strips, Big Box fiefdoms, and parking wastelands, the more appealing the idea of virtual reality became.
For one thing, it was a way of turning the lack of something into an opportunity to sell more products. The lack of town centers in suburbia led to malls. The lack of access to either complex integral townscapes or real rural landscapes led to theme parks or, in the case of Las Vegas, fragmentary ersatz urbanism. The general impoverishment of the public realm
– or the relegation of it to mere decorative berms between zoning categories – was compensated for by the exorbitant internal luxury of new private houses, with their home theaters, “great rooms,” and three-car garages.
For adults the result has been an amazing amount of pervasive situational loneliness. Despite the fact that so many Americans own a car there is no place to go, at least no places of casual socializing unrelated to chain store commerce. So the chat rooms and listserves of the Internet are supposed to take the place of actually being somewhere.
For children, this trend has been catastrophic because they lack the mobility to use environments designed solely for motoring. This consigns kids either to nebulous low-grade hangouts in the left over scrap places of suburbia – the 7-Eleven parking lot, the storm sump, the wooded “buffer” between the housing tract and the strip mall – or to virtual and heavily commercialized public realms of television and the computer, which include rentable movies, the Internet, and computer games.
The most remarkable aspect of these movies and games is their violence, grandiosity, antisocial behavior, and exaltation of technology. A lone Bruce Willis potently and adroitly kills dozens of enemies and saves the world. A gamer manipulates a joystick to waste legions of invaders with virtual gunfire or death rays to save the world. The wish to save the world is obviously not inadvertent since it is based on the perhaps subconscious recognition that our immediate “world” of American culture and American place badly needs to be saved.
It’s not a coincidence that the degree of grandiose fantasized empowerment provided by these “entertainments” exists in inverse relation to the loss of power that suburban children suffer in controlling their own lives. Stuck in a disaggregated habitat and totally dependent on chauffeuring to get from one part of their world to another, suburban children are deprived of the most fundamental process of growing up: Developing a sense of personal sovereignty, the confidence of being able to make decisions about using one’s environment, and then acting on those decisions.
The fact that so many suburban children are obese should tell us that they have also lost control even of their own bodies, a final, tragic insult on top of the developmental injuries they endure.
Technology, Cheap Oil, Listless Lives
It has been an over-investment in technology that got us into this predicament — the wish to build a drive-in utopia. And it will be the failure of this entropic project that may rescue us, if it doesn’t put the human race out of business altogether.
Specifically, the world is now facing the end of a century-long cheap oil fiesta with no real prospect of replacing fossil fuels with other things. There is not going to be any “hydrogen economy.” It’s a fantasy promoted by politicians and business leaders who see what is coming, are scared out of their wits, and have nothing offer besides wishful thinking. The bottom line is this: No combination of alternative fuels or procedures will allow us to run what we are currently running in the United States, or even a substantial fraction of it.
If we want American civilization to continue we will have to rescale and reorganize everything we do, from farming, to schooling, to retail commerce, to the places we live in. We will have to rebuild local networks of economic interdependence and we will have to reconstruct real communities as the context for it to happen in. There will be a lot less motoring.
Circumstances will compel us to do this or the future will belong to other people in other places. It will be a difficult transition in any case. But a half century from now we may look back and marvel that we had ever become so collectively psychotic to pretend that the virtual was the same as the real.
James Kunstler “No War For Oil? Forget about it in sprawl-dominant culture”
By Elm Street Writers Group 7/1/2003
What oil gluttons get, whether they are Republican realtor jingoists or Democratic leftist peacenik commuters, is war. Walking down the street of my traditional small town the other day I saw a bumper sticker that said it all: “War is not the answer.” I emphasize, a bumper sticker. On a car.
But you see, war is the answer if you insist on a car-dependent, oil-addicted mode of living. Nobody in my crowd of middle-aged, ex-hippie, environmentally enlightened, putative political progressives has opted out of the American drive-in utopia. In fact, all spring they were driving down to the peace marches outside the post office. Now the Law of Perverse Outcomes is biting them on the butt.
That law states that people don’t get what they expect but they get what they deserve. And what oil gluttons will get, whether they are Republican realtors jingoists or Democratic leftist peacenik commuters, is war.
The world is leaving the cheap oil epoch behind and that will change absolutely everything. The key to understanding what is about to happen is this: We don’t have to run out of oil to suffer tremendous disruptions in our sprawl-dominated living arrangements. All that’s necessary is to cross the tipping point of global peak production and enter the downward arc of depletion. The best estimates are that this will happen between now and the year 2010. The weight of opinion is lately pointing to the early end of the scale.
The global oil peak will actually be more like a “bumpy plateau,” a period of a few years when worldwide oil production, while remaining robust, fails to keep with rising world demand. But on that bumpy plateau, economies will wobble and we will begin to see a process that might be called globalism in reverse.
Economic relations we have taken for granted – like Wal-Marts filled with merchandise made 12,000 miles away – will fall by the wayside like overspecialized dinosaurs whose favorite food has died off in a climate change. In a few years we will look back on suburbia and all its accessories for what it actually was: The greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.
Meanwhile, our Iraq adventure will be only the first of many international contests over the world’s remaining oil reserves. Many people – again of all political stripes – believe that the United States may find itself in a military occupation of Arabia in the near future, especially if the Saud tribe, which has owned the place and a huge percentage of the world’s remaining oil reserves for half a century, loses its grip on power.
Guess what? We might be able to send an army in there, but there is no way that we can protect the oil infrastructure of that country from an endless supply of angry Jihadistas armed with rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-launched missiles, semtech plastic explosives, and other easy-to-get small arms available to anyone with a few thousand dollars (or the equivalent in rapidly inflating 2003 dollars).
Sooner or later, you understand, we will have to compete with China for the world’s remaining oil goodies. When that happens, Wal-Mart may find itself short of the stuff they stock their shelves with. And we will find ourselves with a cored-out industrial sector, unable to supply ourselves anything from frying pans to underpants.
By the way, there is not going to be a smooth transition to a hydrogen economy. Hydrogen is the policy wonks? fantasy du jour for saving America’s drive-in utopia. It presents monumental problems that show little promise of being solved, at least not for decades, and quite possibly never. Hydrogen requires more net energy to make than the energy it produces and is extremely difficult to store and transport. None of these problems is any closer to being solved than the problems of breeder reactors, which were promised to us 30 years ago as a sure bet to produce cheap electricity.
Nor will we be able to run what we are currently running in America on any combination of other alternative fuels or technologies, including wind power, solar power, tar sands, corn-based ethanol, or the much talked about fuel cell. The scary truth is that we are going to have to drastically downscale all the normal everyday activities of daily life in America. We will have to reduce the presence of cars in our lives. We’re going to have to live closer to the centers of things, namely in towns and villages. We’re going to have to grow much more of our food closer to home and produce more of our own household goods locally. We’re going to have to reconstruct the local networks of economic interdependence that were systematically destroyed by the Wal-Marts. We’re going to have to make schools smaller.
We are not prepared for any of this. And because we’re not prepared, we are liable to live through a long period of political, social, and economic turmoil as events sort things out for us. (Then the question will be: Can we continue the project of civilization in the context of a democratic republic?)
In the meantime, flaunting anti-war bumper stickers may make us feel morally superior to some of our other fellow citizens. But the mentality behind it is no more intelligent than the rationalizations of the sprawl-meisters and the Humvee buyers.
James Howard Kunstler, who lives in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., is the author of The Geography of Nowhere, Home From Nowhere, and other books. He is working on a new book about the coming end of the cheap fossil fuel era. Reach him at Kunstler@aol.com.
James Howard Kunstler. The Long the Emergency: surviving the converging catastrophes of the 21st century. New York: 2005, Atlantic Monthly Press ISBN 0871138883.
It is a little hard to say what Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush really thought about America’s oil predicament, because both affected to subscribe to a branch of evangelical Protestantism that posited an “End Times” apocalyptic scenario for the near future, meaning that it wouldn’t matter what happened to the world very far into the 21st century because the kingdom of Jesus was at hand. Where Reagan and George H. W. Bush only pretending, or did they actually believe the future was irrelevant?
During the Clinton presidency, baby-boomer hippies had matured into yuppies who enjoy the benefits of cheap oil so much (and were so spoiled by it) that they sell easily into a consensus trance regarding America’s energy future: party on. The Alaskan and North Sea oil bonanzas had erased their memories of the brief 1970s oil crises. During most of the 1980s and 1990s gas prices at the pump were lower in constant dollars than at any other time in history. It was the former-hippie boomer yuppies, after all, who started the SUV craze and bought the McMansions way off in the outermost suburbs. At the same time, stunning advances in computer development (boomer-led), and the rapid growth of the huge new industry that went with it, had introduced among the boomer cultural elite the mentality of extreme techno-hubris, leading many to the conviction that our fantastic innovative skills guaranteed a smooth transition into the alternative fuels future — which, of course, squared with the wishful views of conventional economists. It all amounted to an unfortunate self-reinforcing feedback loop of delusion. Clinton Democrats regarded any upticks in oil prices as being a conspiracy between the Republicans and their donor-sponsors in the oil industry. Meanwhile, Democrats have tried to compensate for their purblind irresponsibility on energy issues by assuming a position of moral superiority on environmental issues. Yet many yuppie progressive “greens” are the ones who drove their SUVs to environmental rallies and, even worse, made their homes at the far exurban fringe, requiring massive car dependence in their daily lives. The epitome of this attitude was Amory B. Lovins, head of the Rocky Mountain Institute, who devoted his organization’s time and energy in the 1990s to the development of a high mileage “hypercar” that would have only promoted the unhelpful idea that Americans can continue to lead urban lives in the rural setting. Lovins also built the organization’s headquarters in a remote part of the Colorado backcountry, which employees could get to only by car.
You don’t have to go to extremes to gain value from passive solar design. I once built a small post-and-beam house designed to soak up some light during the day and store it in a concrete slab. It was not a robust engineering effort in terms of energy efficiency. Yet I was able to keep the whole building comfortably warm on a winter day by firing up a small wood stove in the morning. It wasn’t necessary to refire the stove until evening time. The heating bill was remarkably low. Running the house required very little work — seven minutes a day to cut kindling and another five to light fires in the stove. You might even figure in the one afternoon a year I had to spend stacking firewood delivered in a heap by dump truck. The house didn’t even look weird, as more hyperengineered passive solar houses of that era did. In contrast the stock products of the home-building industry in recent years have been ludicrous in terms of even minimally utilizing passive solar energy. The typical “McMansion,” or super-sized tract house on a half-acre lot, with its “lawyer-foyer” and great room, is an energy hog and many of them may be uninhabitable in the coming age of energy austerity. They were designed under the assumption that natural gas would be cheap and plentiful forever.
In fact, the single-family stand-alone house may have a tragic destiny in the years ahead. For several generations this way of living has been the norm in America, but it hasn’t always been so. The single-family house in the suburban subdivision owes everything to cheap energy and to the broad middle class that cheap energy has made possible. Until the 20th century, stand-alone houses in the rural setting were either farmhouses, villas or peasant hovels. People who lived in a rural setting practiced rural lifeways, generally having to do with food production. People involved in trade, services, and labor lived in town, and proportionally far fewer of them were homeowners. I believe we will be heading back to that prior state. The 20th century single-family suburban home alienated from the surrounding landscape may soon be obsolete. The norms for housing in the coming year of energy austerity will have to be much more traditional and integral with their surroundings. Because we will have to grow more of our own food closer to home, land will be valued more for agriculture than for commuter houses. This profound shift in values will reestablish the distinction between country living and town living, with appropriate building typologies, and they will certainly require a return to passive solar building techniques.
Under the banner of free-market globalism, the chief side effect of oligarchial corporatism making its money piles bigger was the systematic destruction of local economies and therefore local communities. Thus, the richest nation in the world in the early 21st century had become an amazing panorama of ruined towns and cities with broken institutions and demoralized populations — surrounded by a Wal-Marts and Target stores.
The free-market part of the equation referred to the putative benefit of unrestrained economic competition between individuals, and because corporations enjoyed the legal status of persons, they were assumed to be on an equal footing with other persons and a given locality. Thus, Wal-Mart was considered the theoretical equal of Bob the appliance store owner, and if Bob happened to lose the retail competition because he couldn’t order 50,000 coffee-makers at a crack from a factory 12,000 miles away in Hangzhou, and receive a deep discount for being such an important customer, well, it wasn’t as though he hadn’t been given the chance.
The free-market also referred to an extreme version of the old idea of comparative advantage, which had meant originally that every locality has something special it is good at producing, or some raw material and ready supply, that a larger macro economy is made up of such specialist trading partners. Under globalism, this was modified to mean that for the sake of “efficiency” such trading partners ought to forget everything else and pump out as much of their specialty is possible (using the money received to buy goods and services from other specialists). There were a number of problems with this simplistic idea. One was that cheap oil subsidized the whole system, and the system would have been impossible without it.
Cheap oil had allowed populations to explode in precisely those parts of the world that had had, for millennia, a high infant mortality rate and modest life expectancy. Cheap oil was behind the “green revolution” that increased the food supply in the nonindustrial world. Oil was also behind many of the medicines and preventives that had neutralized tropical diseases. Now, suddenly, most of those children actually survived, grew up, and produced more children who survived and grew up, and over the course of the 20th century, the global populations hurtled in two extreme numerical overshoot. Populations were, in effect, eating oil, notably in food exports from the United States, where agribusiness had completely taken over from agriculture. Local farmers in Africa, Asia, or South America couldn’t compete with corporate Archer Daniels Midland’s oil-and-gas-based grain crops and U.S. government subsidies. There was no point in even bringing their hardscrabble crops to market when sacks of cheap American wheat sat on the docks of Pusan or Colombo. Farmers in those places felt that they had no choice but to migrate to the city and find some other way to get by. The only comparative advantage that these people possessed was their willingness to work for next to nothing. Cheap oil and free-market globalism turned comparative advantage into a new kind of feudalism, with the corporations as the lords and the overabundant locals as the serfs. And then, when the comparative advantage of cheap labor ($5 a day) of one place, such as Mexico, was superseded by the cheaper labor (99 cents a day) of another place, such as Sri Lanka, the corporations just moved their operations.
James Howard Kunstler. The Long the Emergency: surviving the converging catastrophes of the 21st century. New York: 2005, Atlantic Monthly Press ISBN 0871138883.
The reason that everything in the real world does not fall apart at once is that the flow of entropy faces obstructions or constraints. The more complex the system, the more constraints. A given system will automatically select the paths or drains to get the system to a final state — exhaust its potential — at the greatest possible rate given the constraints. Simple, ordered flows drain entropy at a faster rate than complexly disordered flows. Hence, the creation of ever more efficient ordered flows in American society, the removal of constraints, has accelerated the winding down of American potential, which is exactly why a Wal-Mart economy will bring us to grief more rapidly than a national a collaboration of diverse independent small-town economies. Efficiency is the straightest path to hell.
Inefficient economies are much more complex than efficient ones. Complexity itself can be deceiving. Biogenic complexity constrains entropy flows with checks and balances. What we take to be man-made artificial complexity (technology) is, paradoxically, a simple application process that increases flows by editing away inefficiencies. The ecology of a prairie will keep the soil active and healthy indefinitely, while the ecology of a fossil-fuel-subsidized cornfield will leach the soil of useful nutrients and physically erode it in less than a human lifetime. The ecology of a pond, with its diverse hierarchies of life and multitude of biological nitches and food chains, is much more complex than the Crown Point, New York, trout hatchery with its monoculture of fish, its inputs of manufactured fish food, and its staff of attendants cleaning waste out of the cement hatchery impoundments. The natural pond also has more chance of continuing indefinitely into the future. The built-in constraints of inefficient biogenic economies reduce the flow of potential, often to the point where systems based on inefficient economies last for geological epochs, not just a few decades in the case of a fish hatchery. Everything that we identify with nature takes the form of inefficient systems. Biogenic or living systems are self-stabilizing. They are self-buffered. Small differences are dampened out. Entropy is stalled within them. They exhibit negative feedback tending toward long-term stability. Call this condition “negative entropy.” Everything we identify with the man-made substitutes for natural bioeconomics, that is, technologies, tends toward positive feedback which is self-amplifying, self-reinforcing, and destabilizing, featuring the removal of constraints to entropy flows and leading to the certain eventual destruction of that system. Call this condition “positive entropy.”
An ecological view of history could interpret the rise of totalitarian government as yet another bi-product of high entropy. Both Nazism and Soviet-style communism might he described as politics “polluted” by insane ideology — a consensus disorder, often characterized as mass psychosis. Both systems grew out of social distress provoked by industrialism. Both systems undertook the extreme regimentation of their citizens as a defense against disorder — against entropy. The logic of the machine was overlaid on whole social relations at a scale identical to that mass production of factory goods, and by similar methods. In the process, these systems achieved unprecedented industrial efficiencies in killing off those citizens unsuitable for regimentation. Stalin’s terror and Hitler’s holocaust were regimented die-offs. Adjustments to ecological carrying capacity were carried out with the remorseless logic of Taylorism. World War II was an additional industrially organized die-off, with accompanying massive environmental destruction and social disorder. When it was over, the European principles were battered and entropically wasted.
America had participated in the military die off of World War II to the extent of 295,000 killed in action, but its industrial engines of production and entropy creation remained intact, along with its reserves of oil and the infrastructure for producing it. After the war, the United States embarked on the high-entropy projects of building a suburban drive-in utopia and a nuclear arsenal. The first was a living arrangement with no future, and the second was the ultimate expression of entropy –an industrial means for sterilizing the planned earth of all life
The outfitting of corporate America with computer networks and systems for bookkeeping, inventory, shipping, and tracking certainly generated a lot of business and sales activity for the computer industry itself, and the boom of the 1990s was, of course, largely based on this tremendous installation of digital infrastructure and its regular updating every two or three years as the computers got more powerful. But that too was fraught with diminishing returns, and on anticipated consequences — another manifestation of entropy. The computerization of corporate America promoted the hemorrhaging of jobs and whole industries to offshore locations and “outsourcing” of whole departments to other countries. Additional diminishing returns associated with a victory of national chain retail were the wholesale destruction of American communities, including both the “hardware” of towns and the “software” of social roles and networks associated with them. Computers only assisted predatory corporations in more successfully parasitizing existing value and victimized localities. There were most efficient and sucking the life blood out of complex communities. They helped “convert” complexity into simple this (to seize one big box instead of twenty-seven local businesses) and entropizing society.
Ultimately, the computer revolution led to the “dot-com economy” of the late 1990s, which amounted to a classic bubble over the perceived (or misperceived) moneymaking potential of the Internet. A few gigantic successes were scored in Web-based businesses. Soon, investment banks were backing stock offerings on hundreds of businesses, many of which amounted only to a dream or a wish on paper. Vast amounts of money were raised in initial public offerings for laughable ventures, but the public had lost its critical faculties. Many investors knew nothing about computers anyway, or were intimidated by them. They had seen the immense fortunes made by Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and the like. They even used Web-based businesses such as Google and eBay, and they assumed that some of the bright young dudes in black outfits and stylish eyeglasses behind the public offerings would be the next Bill Gates or Larry Ellison. Hundreds of other ventures were capitalized and geared up, and a stunning percentage of them failed. The diminishing returns of overinvestment had struck again. Entropy expressed itself in the form of mass delusion.
The dirty secret of the American economy in the 1990s was that it was no longer about anything except the creation of suburban sprawl and the furnishing, accessorizing, and financing of it. It resembled the efficiency of cancer. Nothing else really mattered except building suburban houses, trading away the mortgages, selling the multiple cars needed by the inhabitants, upgrading the roads into commercial strip highways with all the necessary shopping infrastructure, and moving vast supplies of merchandise made in China for next to nothing to fill up those houses.
The economy of suburban sprawl was a systemic self-organizing response to the availability of inordinately cheap oil with ever-increasing entropy expressed in an ever-increasing variety of manifestations from the distruction of farmland to the decay of the cities, to widespread psychological depression, to the rash of school shooting sprees, to epidemic obesity. Americans didn’t question the validity of the suburban sprawl economy. They accepted it at face value as the obvious logical outcome of their hopes and dreams and defended it viciously against criticism. They steadfastly ignored its salient characteristic: that it had no future either as an economy or as a living arrangement. Each further elaboration of the suburban system made it less likely to survive any change in conditions, most particularly any change in the equations of cheap oil.
In Europe, expatriates have a leg up on gas prices, by Michael Woods, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Monday, May 31, 2004. (Michael Woods can be reached at email@example.com or 1-202-413-0294.)
BARCELONA, Spain—The gas pump whirled at the filling station along the A9 highway in France and stopped at a figure that meant … $60?!
Actually, that wasn’t bad. The compact Ford Focus rental took only three quarters of a tank. Of regular. It’s that each gallon cost the equivalent of $5. High gas prices got you down? Trying to drive less? Wish you could ditch the whole four-wheel lifestyle—the gas bills, the car payments, the insurance premiums, and that jerk tailgating you on Interstate 279?
Welcome to Europe, where sticker-shock gas prices have been part of the landscape for a long time, and where most people have adjusted by simply giving up on cars.
Europe has only 45 cars for every 100 people, compared to 85 in the United States (although ownership is rising, especially in the increasingly prosperous and formerly communist countries of eastern Europe). Americans not only own one-quarter of the world’s 535 million cars, they also drive them a lot, racking up twice as many miles per year as Europeans.
For expatriate Americans living in Europe, stories about high gas prices often lead to the inevitable question.
“You don’t have a what?” mortgage broker Michael Geire asked during a holiday gathering in the Washington, D.C. suburbs last December. “How can you possibly live without a car?”
A man named Dom Nozzi provided an explanation for the furrowed brows and dubious looks that always seem to accompany such questions from Americans. An urban planner for the city of Gainesville, Fla., Nozzi wrote the 2003 book, “The Road to Ruin,” which concludes that America’s car obsession makes cities less livable.
“Without a car in America today,” he said in an interview, “one is looked upon as a weirdo. A bizarre anachronism. Sadly, it is now nearly impossible to live a fulfilling life in America without a car. Without a car, too many sacrifices have to be made. Loss of independence. Loss of time. Loss of ability to get to certain places, do certain things, or work in certain jobs.”
Life in Falls Church, Va., just outside Washington, used to seem barely survivable with four cars. When one went down, life fell apart, with parents and kids forced to double up and rejigger schedules to get to work, school, shopping, soccer games and other activities.
But when the rubber hits the road in Europe, it usually involves shoes landing on pavement. And most American transplants feel like Larry Steck.
“Miss owning a car?” he asked in amazement, citing the pleasure of not worrying about gas prices or traffic hassles. “Absolutely not.”
Steck is a retired U. S. Army colonel from Michigan who moved here three years ago with his wife, Linda.
“Some afternoons in the U.S., the 20-mile drive home took an hour and a half,” noted Chris Beeler, who moved here last August from Portland, Ore., with wife, Natasha. “By the time I got home, I was wound up and stressed out.”
Commuting home now means 15 to 20 minutes by foot and train, and Beeler uses the time to wind down from his job as a 6th grade language arts teacher.
Christine Scharf found a world of difference between going car-less in the United States and Europe. She’s a computer specialist from Flanders, N.J., who has lived here for years and has never owned a car.
“In the U.S., I felt like you cannot get anywhere without a car,” she said. “Nothing is located conveniently for walking because the world expects you to have a car.”
Most people in Europe don’t need cars because most cities here were built before cars became popular, Nozzi said. In-town areas are compact, designed for walking and mass transit. They are densely populated with mixed-use residential and commercial multi-story buildings. Daily destinations like work, school, shopping, cultural activities and health care are close together. Streets are modest in size with little space devoted to roads or surface parking.
“The design was intended to make people happy, instead of cars,” Nozzi said. “This explains why these European communities remain such fantastic places that millions of non-Europeans love to visit as tourists.”
Here’s a brief neighborhood tour from an apartment near the intersection of Passeig Manuel Girona and Capita Arenas, two miles from the center of Barcelona:
Walk out the front door, and there’s a bus stop, with others just around both corners. A Metro station is a three-minute walk down Capita Arenas. The equivalent of 75 cents takes you anywhere in the city. Sants Estacio, the main railroad station, a gateway to anywhere in Spain, Europe or the world, is a four-minute Metro ride away. Trains from Sants Estacio stop right inside the terminal at Barcelona’s international airport.
Taxis are cheap and on patrol day and night. Nobody hesitates to hail one for hauling big purchases. Chairs or carpets are tied to the roof.
All of life’s necessities, however, can be reached by foot. That’s why Europeans make about 45 percent of their daily trips by walking and biking, according to the European Conference of Ministers of Transport, compared to 7 percent in the United States.
SA Champion supermarket is a minute’s walk and a competing Caprabo market beckons five minutes up the street. A huge El Corte Ingles department store, three minutes by foot, has a complete supermarket, as well. Most will deliver a shopping cart of food to a home or apartment within an hour for a nominal fee.
In or bordering on this single city block are a half dozen restaurants and cafes, three bakeries, several small grocery stores, a 24-hour pharmacy, two churches, a health club, medical and dental offices, two hardware shops, two news stands, two florists, a travel agent, a palm-tree lined municipal park with a playground, automatic teller machines that also sell tickets to concerts and other events, three banks, a barber shop and beauty parlor, adult and children’s clothing stores, an optician, a dry cleaners, even a clothing shop for cats and dogs.
Linda Steck said the people-oriented urban design of Barcelona made for a smooth transition to life without a car.
“I buy a 50-trip bus-Metro-train pass once a month for about $30, which is less than it would cost to fill up my car for one week,” she said. “We walk extensively, which is very healthy for us.”
Better health—physical and mental—is a common theme of the car-less crowd in Europe.
“Walking incorporates exercise, naturally and almost effortlessly, and it is delightful to stop by the markets and enjoy the beauty of the city without ever having the frustration of being stuck in traffic,” Scarf said. “When my mother visited, she was fascinated with the idea of walking from place to place.”
Chris and Natasha Beeler each lost about 10 pounds within a few months after switching from tires to shoe leather. The librarian at their school shed “two dress sizes”— about 20 pounds—and has nightmares of gaining it all back when she eventually returns to a drive-everywhere life in the United States.
“I’ve lost weight, I feel better, and I’m saving hundreds of dollars that went to the car,” said Candace Crites, who has traveled by foot and bicycle since moving last year to Rotterdam in the Netherlands from suburban Washington, D.C.
Ex-pats also marvel at the amount of human contact that takes place when cars are removed from their lives.
After a few months commuting by foot and bike, Robert Overson realized that he had been locked in a steel-and-glass isolation capsule while driving everywhere in his native Santa Cruz, Calif.
“While walking you have a tendency to slow down and see things around you, really see them, instead of zooming by,” said Overson, a special education teacher.
“I think the biggest advantage is the sense of community that walking builds” Linda Steck said. “There are 1.5 million people in Barcelona and we have never gone out without seeing somebody we know. Our home is in St. Joseph, Mich., which has 12,000 people, and in two months last summer we saw two people we knew in the supermarket. Why? Everybody drives.”
American transplants in Europe occasionally do miss their wheels when they take those rare weekend trips to places that are not easily accessible by train or bus. Then it’s time to rent a vehicle, and to head back out on the road to ruin.
Aside from the high-priced gas, Europe features expressway tolls nearly six times those of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and parking lots that cost $18 a day. Not to mention the occasional jerk tailgating on the A9.
Jeremy Sinek, “The Joy of (not always) Driving” from the Shifting Gears Column in World of Wheels: Canada’s Auto Magazine July 2002, Pages 1 – 2
Since you’re reading this magazine, I’m going to make a giant leap of logic and assume that you love cars and you enjoy driving.
Not for you the notion of a motor vehicle as merely an appliance or “tool, personal transportation, for the use of.” Cars, to you, are intrinsically interesting driving is an act of emotion, not mere motion.
That being the case, I have proposal that may shock you.
Am I nuts? The editor of a car magazine telling people to cut back on the driving: No, I’m serious: if you’re serious about how much you like to drive, do it less.
What this planet needs more than anything is fewer cars on the road. We need fewer cars crashing into each other, cleaner air in our cities, less carbon dioxide heating up the planet. We need to reduce our dependence on the foreign sources of ail over which future wars may be fought….
Let’s face it, this whole concept of personal mobility that the automobile represents is a wondrous privilege and luxury that we abuse and misuse shamefully. And I don’t mean misuse in the sense of driving badly, thought Lord knows there’s enough of that going around. I mean it in the sense of driving inappropriately; driving when you really should not be driving.
This Guy Can Get 59 MPG in a Plain Old Accord. Beat That, Punk
January/February 2007 Issue MotherJones.com / News / Feature
Drafting 18-wheelers with the engine off, taking death turns at 52 miles an hour, and other lessons learned while riding shotgun with the king of the hypermilers on a midsummer Saturday in a sprawling Wisconsin parking lot, about a dozen people are milling about a candy-apple red Honda Insight. They’re watching Wayne Gerdes prepare for his run in Hybridfest’s mpg Challenge, a 20-mile race through the streets of Madison. Wayne is the odds-on favorite to win the challenge, in which drivers compete to push the automotive limits not of speed and power—a desire those gathered here consider old-fashioned and wasteful—but for the unsexy title of Most Fuel-Efficient Driver in the World.
Wayne is believed to be that driver, but he’s nervous, because all day long the hypermilers—the term Wayne invented to describe the band of brothers who push the limits of fuel efficiency—have been getting crazy-high miles-per-gallon readings, as much as 100 mpg. For the race, he’s borrowed a buddy’s Insight and, in order to decrease the car’s mass, jettisoned everything that’s not screwed down. Car detritus—a pillow, towels, cleaning supplies, a tool kit—sits neatly on a blanket on the macadam.
What can’t be jettisoned is Wayne himself, who at 6 feet 1 inch and 210 pounds looks too big to fit into this tin can two-seater. (“I would love to lose 60 pounds,” he tells me, “because it would help my mileage.”) In Wayne’s world, fuel efficiency is not about the car. It’s about the driver. Wayne doesn’t get high mpg marks by tinkering with engines or using funky fuels or even, most days, by driving a hybrid. He gets them by driving consciously—hyperconsciously. He takes out his wallet and his keys. Then he removes his sneakers. “We’ll put them on eBay,” cracks one of the onlookers. “He’s speeding,” someone says as Wayne exits the parking lot. “Look at him go.” Wayne is doing no more than 15 miles per hour. Before he’s out of sight, though, he turns a full loop on the exit road to slow himself down, so he doesn’t have to brake at a traffic jam ahead. Wayne hates braking.
Forty-five minutes later, Wayne is still driving the bucolic 20-mile course when raindrops as big as marbles begin falling and winds send trash hurtling across the parking lot. Everyone runs for cover, and I jump into a Toyota Prius owned by one of Wayne’s hypermiling buddies, Dave Bassage. Puddles and high winds are a hypermiler’s nightmare. “Nature’s putting on its own energy show,” says Bassage, watching the blasts of lightning through his water-splattered windshield. “This pretty much screws Wayne.”
Two nights earlier, on a clammy 80-degree Chicago evening, I wait for Wayne at the curb at O’Hare International Airport. I first see his technique as the car he’s driving, a 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid, pulls over to pick me up. Drifts over, actually, like a jellyfish. Around Wayne is madness in motion: Drivers in four lanes are accelerating hard, weaving erratically, or grinding to a halt. To Wayne, these are the driving habits of the ignorant and the wasteful—which is to say, nearly all of us. Wayne’s car glides to a stop as if it has run out of gas. Wayne has stopped without braking.
The car is owned by his friend Terry Honaker, who, with his wife, Cathy, is along for the ride. Inside it’s hotter and even more humid than outside. As we take off—or, more accurately, as the vehicle rolls forward really slowly—I notice that all four windows are closed and the AC is off. I’m sitting in one of the most technologically advanced cars in the world, and it feels like I’m trapped in a fanless tollbooth in Biloxi, Mississippi, in August. We take the interstate to Wayne’s house. The speed limit is 55, and most of the traffic is zipping past at 75 or so, but Wayne hovers around 50 mph. He’s riding the white line on the right side of the right-hand lane.
“Why are you doing that?” I ask from the backseat. “It’s called ridge-riding,” he explains, using another term he’s invented. He ridge-rides to let people behind him know that he is moving slowly. I imagine it’s also a way to avoid dying plastered to the grill of a semi. Ridge-riding, Wayne explains, saves gas in the rain, as it gets the wheels out of the puddly grooves in the road created by more, let’s say, traditional drivers. “People are burning fuel to throw water in the air,” he says, adding that you can hear if you’re driving in the road’s grooves or out of them. That’s interesting, but I’m having a hard time concentrating, because my back and butt are beginning to stick to the seat. “Is anybody a little warm in here?” I ask.
I don’t think Wayne hears me, because, as a Chevy Tahoe whizzes by, he notes, “I imagine that it’s getting 10 to 13 miles per gallon climbing this hill. We’re getting about 80. It’ll drive you crazy.” I’m thinking that hypermiling consists of driving like a 90-year-old in a mobile sweat lodge, but I’m about to find out I’m wrong. Really, really wrong.
“Buckle up tight, because this is the death turn,” says Wayne. Death turn? We’re moving at 50 mph. Wayne turns off the engine. He’s bearing down on the exit, and as he turns the wheel sharply to the right, the tires squeal—which is what happens when you take a 25 mph turn going 50. Cathy, Terry’s wife, who is sitting next to me in the backseat, grabs my leg. I grab the door handle. As we come out of the 270-degree turn, Cathy says, “I hope you have upholstery cleaner.”
We glide for over a mile with the engine off, past a gas station, right at a green light, through another green light—Wayne is always timing his speed to land green lights—and around a mall, using momentum in a way that would have made Isaac Newton proud. “Are we going to attempt that at home?” Cathy asks Terry, a talkative man who has been stone silent since Wayne executed the death turn in his car. “Not in this lifetime,” he shoots back.
Wayne is paying attention to the road, not the banter. He’s had to turn the engine back on earlier than he usually does after taking the death turn. “I hit the turn at 50, 51,” he says. “I should have hit it at 52.”
I stay at Wayne’s home, part of a modern suburban development between Chicago and Milwaukee on Lake Michigan’s western shore. It’s not the kind of place where people drive compact cars, much less hybrids. “There’s a Hummer over there,” Wayne says after we step inside, pointing to a neighbor’s house beyond his microwave. “And there’s a Hummer over there,” he says, pointing past his TV, the largest flat-screen I’ve ever seen outside of a sports bar. In the kitchen with us is Hobbit—he prefers that to his real name—another visitor who is staying at Wayne’s house while attending Hybridfest. Hobbit has a patchy beard and a braided ponytail and travels in bare feet. He looks and thinks like the ecoradical you might expect a hypermiler to be and confesses he’s surprised by Wayne’s home and lifestyle. “I thought you’d be living like a college student,” he says.
Unlike most hypermilers, the most fuel-efficient driver on the planet doesn’t own a hybrid. He sold his Honda Insight two years ago and bought a 2005 Accord for the luxury of power mirrors, heated leather seats, and a state-of-the-art navigation system. He uses the Accord for a hellacious two-hour commute to the Braidwood Nuclear Power Station, where he works as an operator. His wife drives a 2003 Acura mdx, a seven-seater with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that advertises itself as “the suv benchmark.” Wayne also owns a 2003 Ford Ranger, which he used to haul 5,000 pounds of lawn care equipment when he had a landscaping business on the side. He’s also proud of his Exmark Laser Z sit-down mower. “I can mow an acre a gallon,” he says.
The morning after I arrive, Hobbit and I squeeze into the front seat of the Ranger to join Wayne on a milk run. He starts the truck—well, gets it rolling—by releasing the emergency brake and putting the gearshift in neutral before jumping out and pushing the 3,330-pound vehicle down his sloping driveway with the engine off. He jumps in and, without braking, turns right, swerves around a dead skunk in the road, and then takes a left turn—again without braking—to a stop sign. Ahead, the light is red. “This is a long light,” he says. “I’m screwed. We have to throw it away.” “Throw it away” is the phrase Wayne uses to describe what most of us do with gasoline. We throw gas away when we accelerate fast, when we turn on the air conditioning, when we leave heavy stuff in the trunk, when we drive with a roof rack, when we don’t change the oil, when we underinflate our tires, when we roll down the windows, when we speed, when we brake, or when we idle. Wayne might seem a radical at times, but he’s really a conservative: He doesn’t want to throw anything away.
Even parking is not a routine matter with Wayne, as I learn when he chooses an isolated spot in the strip mall lot. “This is potential parking with a face-out,” he says. Potential parking, Wayne explains, is when you park at the highest spot in a parking lot. That way, you rely on gravity to get going rather than on the ice—the acronym Wayne uses for the internal combustion engine. A face-out is like it sounds: facing out into the open lot, allowing a driver to avoid backing up, braking, and then moving forward. “Nobody uses it,” he says, “but they darn well should. It’s a nearly empty parking lot, and you see people jammed in nose to nose. It’s screwed up.”
As we’re driving out of the parking lot, Wayne comes to the top of a small hill and tells me he’s doing a fas. “What?” I ask. “That’s a forced auto stop,” he says, which is putting the car in neutral, turning off the engine, and gliding. It’s illegal in some states—with the engine off, you can lose your power brakes after a few pumps, and with older cars, you can lose your power steering—but it’s a favorite driving tool of many hypermilers.
Wayne loves acronyms almost as much as he loves FE (that’s fuel economy). d-fas is a “draft-assisted fas,” which means fasing while you’re tailgating an 18-wheeler to reduce air resistance. dwb means “driving without brakes,” which is not really driving without brakes—even Wayne doesn’t do that—but driving as if you don’t have brakes. P&G is a pulse and glide, which I still don’t understand, but Wayne defines it in his notes for his Hybridfest presentation this way: “In a nutshell, it includes a fas in many hybrid and non-hybrid automobiles to a lower target speed (some hybrids can be influenced into this mode of operation with the right application of multiple accelerator pedal inputs), reigniting the ice, re-engagement of the tranny with the rev match, and re-acceleration to a higher target speed, repeat.” Got it?
On the way home, a woman in a generic gray sedan zips around Wayne trying to catch a green light, but she’s too late. The light turns red and she slams on the brakes. “That made no sense,” Wayne says. “Now she’s all pissed off too,” Hobbit says. “She’s sitting there with the car running and she’s going to tear out of here,” adds Wayne, who is sitting up the hill a bit from the light, with the engine off. Of course, that’s just what she does. (One study found that jackrabbit starts and hard brake stops reduce travel time by only about 4 percent—that’s 75 seconds on a 30-minute trip.) As we approach the right turn back into his subdivision, Wayne, in a fas, coasts down to 30 mph, then to 25 mph, letting inertia do the job of his brakes. Three cars are bunched behind him, and a guy in a Ford Explorer honks. “They can honk all day,” Wayne says. “My turn signal’s been on for the last eighth of a mile.” The guy in the Explorer passes, shooting Wayne an exasperated look.
Although Hobbit has great respect for Wayne, he attempts to distance himself from what Wayne is now doing. “I don’t consider myself a hypermiler in this sense, because, um… ” Hobbit struggles to express himself delicately. “I try to conform to the traffic much more than he does. There’s a big difference there. I’m sure it will show in the mileage numbers.” As Wayne pisses another driver off, Hobbit gives up on diplomacy. “At some point, the survival instinct and trying to be courteous on the road comes into play, too.”
Wayne finally makes the turn. It’s not the death turn of the previous night; it’s a mini-death turn. “Because you guys are in the cab, and I’ve got milk in the back,” Wayne explains, “I can’t take the corner very fast.”
Wayne’s driving obsession began after 9/11. Before then, he drove “75 miles per hour in the left-hand lane,” but in the wake of the attacks he vowed to minimize his personal consumption of Mideast oil. As he sees it, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda received their operating funds from all the U.S. consumers who bought Saudi oil. That money paid for the construction work that made bin Laden’s family rich. “If Osama bin Laden didn’t have the money to burn,” Wayne says, “he wouldn’t have been able to do what he did. There was a direct relationship between our addiction to oil and the World Trade Center coming down.”
Less consumption of Mideast oil would also make our economy less susceptible to spikes in the price of opec oil, which have triggered U.S. recessions. More than half the gas we pour into our vehicles in America is imported, and we send more than $4 billion a week abroad to buy oil. If we all got a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy (far less than the 50 percent improvement that Wayne and his hypermilers routinely get), we could reduce by half the oil we import from the Mideast for our cars. And then there’s global warming. “I’m not just doing this for myself,” Wayne told me before we met. “I’m doing this for my country and the world.”
But driving with Wayne, you get the feeling it’s not just about politics, and that’s confirmed when he tells me about his father. For 50 years, Robert Gerdes has been writing down the mileage he gets from each tank of gas. Wayne remembers the vacation his family took from Winthrop Harbor, Illinois, to Florida when he was eight. His father drove the family car, a Buick LeSabre, and hauled an 18-foot travel trailer loaded with camping gear. The Buick got seven miles per gallon on the trip. “Every time we hit a steep hill it was, ‘Whooooshhhh,’ like the flushing of a toilet,” says Wayne, “but it was flushing fuel. I’ll never forget that sucking sound of the four-barrel carburetor. We visited Disney World, but I don’t remember it.”
In 2002, wayne bought a Toyota Corolla to replace the 1999 Nissan truck he had been using for his daily commute to the power plant. Online, he saw that “guys in Priuses were bragging about 44 mpg, and I was doing better in a Corolla.” But it was driving his wife’s Acura mdx that moved Wayne up to the next rung of hypermiler driving. That’s because the suv came with a fuel consumption display (fcd), which shows mpg in real time. As he drove, he began to see how little things—slight movements of his foot, accelerations up hills, even a cold day—influenced his fuel efficiency. He learned to wring as many as 638 miles from a single 19-gallon tank in the mdx; he rarely gets less than 30 mpg when he drives it. “Most people get 18 in them,” he says. The fcd changed the driving game for Wayne. “It’s a running joke,” he says, “but instead of a fuel consumption display, a lot of us call them ‘game gauges'”—a reference to the running score posted on video games—”because we’re trying to beat our last score—our miles per gallon.”
If people could see how much fuel they guzzled while driving, Wayne believes they’d quickly learn to drive more efficiently. “If the epa would mandate fcds in every car, this country would save 20 percent on fuel overnight,” he says. “They’re not expensive for the manufacturers to put in—10 to 20 bucks—and it would save more fuel than all the laws passed in the last 25 years. All from a simple display.”
Since early in 2005, when gas prices rose past $2 a gallon, drivers all over the country have become more attentive to fuel efficiency. But the hypermilers set themselves apart in an event they refer to as the Prius Marathon, which took place in Pittsburgh in August 2005. It was undertaken by five men: Wayne; Dan Kroushl, an electrical engineer from Wexford, Pennsylvania; Dave Bassage, a West Virginian who until recently worked for the Department of Environmental Protection; Rick Reece, a geospatial analyst from South Carolina; and Bob Barlow, a Virginia attorney. They had all met online.
Kroushl got the idea after driving his Prius earlier that spring on a 15-mile portion of Route 65 near his home, when he was able to sustain 99.9 mpg, the highest reading that a Prius fcd can record. He posted what he had done online and asked if anyone had a device that could record higher mpgs. But nobody believed he had even reached 99.9. The car has a combined city/highway epa mpg estimate of 55, and even hypermilers with Priuses were only posting mpgs in the 60s and 70s. Kroushl wanted to prove the doubters wrong, so he invited other hypermilers to Pittsburgh to run the same stretch of Route 65—15 miles up and 15 miles back. Their goal was to break the record for most miles on a tank of gasoline in a Prius, which was 1,316 miles, recorded by a Japanese driver, at 85.85 mpg. But the American version of the car has a 12.8-gallon tank rather than the 15.9-gallon tank in the Japanese Prius. That meant the five men would have to top the Japanese mpg by about 20 percent, which would mean they’d have to sustain 100 mpg over 48 hours. Bassage described the event this way: “We’re coming from all points of the compass to have fun going nowhere for a whole weekend in Pittsburgh.”
The hypermilers cracked 100 mpg in their first four four-hour shifts. Back at their hotel, they posted fuzzy digital photographs of the Prius’ fcds on greenhybrid.com.
On their first round, the men posted mpgs in the low hundreds, but as they drove, they talked on the phone, sharing fuel-saving tips with each other. On Saturday, Reece got 114.7, and Kroushl reached 115. On Sunday, Wayne beat 120. “I’d be getting 105 miles per gallon,” Bassage told me, “and thinking I let down the team.” By Sunday night, Kroushl, who had launched the endeavor, was getting sick of driving, and his wife had made it clear she wanted him to stop the nonsense and get home, so he began turning on the air conditioner and the defroster, to drink up gas faster. “The ‘low fuel’ light flashed for over nine hours,” Bassage says. When the Prius, with Kroushl driving, finally ran out of gas and rolled to a stop, the five men had clocked 1,397 miles from just one 12.8-gallon tank of gas—a new record. They had averaged 109 miles per gallon.
In order to reacquaint himself with the car he’ll be driving the next day in the mpg Challenge, Wayne borrows an Insight for the 120-mile drive to Hybridfest. While Wayne drives, he reminisces about one of his sweetest—meaning most fuel efficient—drives of all time, in his Honda Accord last summer. “I was going about 70 miles per hour catching up with a truck, in the late evening, and I had a tail wind. I went into a d-fas, down the bowl over the top of a hill, and I coasted almost three and a half miles. It ended at 40 miles per hour…. It was a once-in-a-lifetime. I’ll probably never experience it again. The hypermiling gods were with me.”
I ask him what the equivalent feat would be for a baseball player. “Three grand slams in a game,” he says. A great home run hitter needs sharp eyes, strong wrists, and exquisite timing. And a great hypermiler? “Foot control, hand-eye coordination, and anticipation,” he says. “It’s like a moving chess game, where the pieces aren’t stationary.” Like all transcendent athletes, Wayne anticipates the action on the field—in his case, the road—before it unfolds. “I’m making micro-adjustments on a continual basis,” he says.
Fearlessness might be another trait that Wayne neglects to mention. At one point in our drive, Wayne approaches a truck to ride its draft. The wind whipping around the semi buffets the Insight, which weighs just 1,800 pounds. I offer Wayne some cashews, and as he takes a handful, his foot comes off the pedal slightly and the Insight drifts a few car lengths back. A black Infiniti suv squeezes between us and the truck. Wayne rides its butt. The Infiniti moves back into the left lane and zips away. “We pressured him so we could get our target back.” I offer him more cashews, but he declines. “I have to pay attention,” he says. He creeps back toward the truck. We’re at two car lengths…. Wayne takes a call from some friends in another car…. One car length…. I thump an imaginary brake pedal with my foot, just like my mother used to do while riding with me. Wayne, not a touchy-feely guy, puts his hand on my leg to reassure me.
A few minutes later, he slaps the wheel. “Damn. I forgot my ice vest.” The vest, which he uses at the nuclear plant when he has to work in really hot rooms, “is kind of my secret weapon,” he says. “You can drive at 95 degrees with an ice vest, and it doesn’t feel like 95.” Wayne expects his car will be extremely toasty during the mpg Challenge. “No electricity, no air, no fans,” he says. “No nothin’.”
The three dozen men—no women sign up to compete—begin driving the 20-mile course of the Hybridfest mpg Challenge at about 9 a.m. Wayne is the favorite—”I have a target on my back,” he says—and the star of the show. “It’s like he’s a member of Kiss,” says Tony Schaefer, a Hybridfest fan. Wayne expects that his most serious contender in the mpg Challenge will be Randall Burkhalter, the only driver to ever break one of Wayne’s mpg records. This summer he passed Wayne’s 92.8 mpg lifetime average for the Honda Insight, and his mark is now up to 95.4 mpg. Like many hypermilers, the two met online at websites such as cleanmpg.com, greenhybrid.com, and priuschat.com. Wayne finds Burkhalter in the hot midday sun after Burkhalter has just finished his run, the best of the day: a 108.5 mpg average in his Insight. Wayne slaps him on the back to congratulate him, calling him “the top dog.” Burkhalter thanks Wayne for all he’s taught him, adding, “We’re the head-butters. We’re the rams butting horns in the mountains.”
A few minutes later, a shout comes from the finish line that there’s a new front-runner. His name is Justin Fons, and he’s just 17 years old. He clocks 117.2 mpg in an Insight. Afterward, Justin explains that his father taught him how to drive, but that “the person I learned to drive efficiently from is Wayne Gerdes.” By mid-afternoon, Mike Dabrowski, an inventor, tops Justin’s mark, finishing the course at 121.9 mpg. But Dabrowski has the advantage of an extra battery in his Insight that connects to a fifth wheel he lowers to the ground hydraulically from the rear axle—which is why the other hypermilers call him “Mr. Fifth Wheel.” Wayne doubts that it’s possible to beat 121.9 mpg with four wheels. As he’s about to take the course for the last run of the day, he tells the woman who signs him in that she should write “Mike Dabrowski” in the winner’s slot.
By the time Wayne enters the lot from his run, it’s past 5 p.m., and the other hypermilers have retreated from the storm and are off to Hybridfest’s happy hour. Wayne’s cap is off and his head, soaking wet, is sticking out the window because his breath has fogged up the windshield, and he refuses to turn on the defroster. Wayne honks to get a judge to run through the rain to record his fcd. It reads as high as the Insight can record: 150 mpg. Afterward, the Insight’s owner hits a switch that shows Wayne’s mark in kilometers per liter, which has a higher limit. It reads 1.3 L/100 km. That’s 180.91 mpg. Later, at the awards dinner, Wayne is presented with a one-year subscription to Green Car Journal and a $25 gas card. For all we know, Wayne’s still using it.
ridge-ride vb to drive an automobile with one’s right wheels touching the right white line. Used to avoid puddles and excess friction and to alert approaching vehicles that one is moving slowly.
d-fas: draft-as·sis·ted forced au·to stop
n a fuel-saving driving technique in which one turns off the engine and tailgates a large truck in order to lower one’s wind resistance.
From The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake
Without Contraries there is no Progression.
Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate,
are necessary to Human existence.
From these Contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil
Good is the passive that obeys Reason.
Evil is the active springing from Energy.
Good is Heaven, Evil is Hell.
From The Unquiet Grave by Cyril Connolly
It is more important, in fact, to be good than to do good things because being, rather than doing, is the state which keeps us in tune with the order of things. Hence Pascal’s reflection that all the evil of the world comes from men not being able to sit quietly in a room. Good is the retention of energy; evil a waste of it, energy which is taken away from growth. Like water, we are truest to our nature in repose.
US Department of Energy, National Association of Manufacturers. Energy Efficiency: The Competitive Edge, December 1990, Page 3
While some fear they must start by buying their way to energy efficiency, the fact is that many can begin by managing their way to savings. At a General Motors plant, employees received monthly reports which visually demonstrated through computer generated graphics the cost of neglecting to turn off lights and equipment. The awareness campaign resulted in 50 percent less energy wasted on lighting and 86 percent energy wasted on major equipment, saving more than $309,500 a year.
Rodes, Barbara K., and Rice Odell. A Dictionary of Environmental Quotations. New York: 1992. ISBN 0801857384, Page 275
Do not plan long journeys because whatever you believe in you have already seen. When a thing is everywhere, then the way to find it is not to travel but to love it.
–AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO (354 – 430), City of God
Fernando, Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet. New York: 1991. ISBN 1852422041, Page 76
The only traveler with real soul I’ve ever met was an office boy who worked in a company where I was at one time employed. This young lad collected brochures on different cities, countries and travel companies; he had maps, some torn out of newspapers, others begged from one place or another; he cut out pictures of landscapes, engravings of exotic costumes, painting of boats and ships from various journals and magazines. He would visit travel agencies on behalf of some real or hypothetical company, possibly the actual one in which he worked, and ask for brochures on Italy or India, brochures giving details of sailings between Portugal and Australia.
He was only the greatest traveler I’ve ever known (because he was the truest), he was also one of the happiest people I have had the good fortune to meet. I’m sorry not to know what has become of him, though, to be honest, I’m not really sorry, I only feel that I should be. I’m not really sorry because today, ten or more years on from that brief period in which I knew him, he must be a grown man, stolid, reliably fulfilling his duties, married perhaps, someone’s breadwinner—in other words, one of the living dead. By now he may even have traveled in body, he who knew so well how to travel in his soul.
Kunstler, James Howard Home from Nowhere New York, 1996: Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0684811960, Page 25
Much of what makes European cities tolerable are remnants of the pre-industrial ages, particularly the public spaces associated with history—the ancient civic plazas, the market and cathedral squares, the military parade grounds, the palaces and playgrounds of the aristocracy—and the agreeable human scale of all these old things. The streets of these cities often have the intimacy and meandering character of ancient cow paths, which many once were.
Kidd, Chip. Fast Company, October 1999 Page 129
TAKE THE AVERAGE PARKING LOT WHERE EVERY DAY you come across a clever device: the speed bump — that elongated, bread loaf-shaped piece of macadam lying across the pavement.
What makes the speed bump a good design? It’s a simple but highly functional object that’s foolproof. It’s not what you would call decorative — but it doesn’t need to be. There’s a purity of design to it, based on plain common sense. Often, the simplest and the most effective solutions aren’t dictated by style. In fact, the only real piece of dogma that I was ever taught in school was that form is strictly determined by the function it needs to perform. Accordingly, the generic parking-lot speed bump is a supremely elegant solution to the problem of getting people to slow down.
Take an alternative solution to achieving that same goal: posting a sign that reads, “Slow down.” With a sign, you’re faced with a bunch of decisions: What color should you use for the lettering and for the background? What shape should you make the sign? How big should it be? The beauty of the simple speed bump is that you don’t have to worry about any of those decisions.
Still, when we’re out driving around, and we come up against a speed bump, it can be a jolting surprise. Which suggests another important point: Design isn’t always a pleasing part of our lives. But as the speed bump teaches us, design is necessary — and it can be extremely practical
Frost, Robert. “The Literate Farmers and the Planet Venus”.
Here come more stars to character the skies,
And they in the estimation of the wise
Are more divine than any bulb or arc,
Because their purpose is to flash and spark.
Allen, Steve. Dumbth: The Lost Art of Thinking. New York: ISBN 1573992237, Page 361
When I was very young I feared the dark,
But now I see it’s the more natural state.
We come from an eternity of it,
Blink briefly in the light, and then return.
Most of the earth’s best work is done in darkness.
And only surface things can know the sun.
The oil, the diamonds, the coal, the iron
Come from the undercrusts eternal night.
The sea’s work is done equally by night.
And all beneath the wave is lightless gloom.
The sun has never penetrated seeds;
It touches but the outer skin of fruits.
And you, the part of you is a stranger
That light nor I will ever know.
It’s dark beneath your dress (facetiously)
And darker still beneath your skin. The bones.
The heart works blindly, and the cells
Grope sightlessly among the veins for food.
The blood indeed’s so fearful of the light
That at the very sight it starts and freezes.
The Bible tells us that the dark came first.
And also that it shall come last
And when it does the cause may be
That of a sudden there was too much light.
Wright, Steven. The Wisdom of Steven Wright. Downloaded from his web site.
Power outage at a department store yesterday; twenty people were trapped on the escalators.
Nye, David E. Consuming Power. United States: 1998. ISBN 0262140632, Pages 4 and 179
In their daily rounds, Americans have come to depend on more heat, light, and power than any other people, including those with equal levels of development. The Processes of capitalism and industrialization alone do not explain this rapid development or this national difference. Culture does….
In the decentralized world of automotive distances, most of the life of the street disappeared, including vendors, delivery boys, the casual walk, the accidental encounter, the corner drugstore, the local cafe, the neighborhood store, sidewalk displays, and the sidewalks themselves. For those who chose to remain in the central city, the street was transformed form a social space of encounter into a transportation artery.
Sachs, Wolfgang. Greening the North. New York: 1998. ISBN 1856495078 Page 118
The specific amount of electricity used is not the only magnitude determining consumption. The facilities involved and user habits can also result in increased energy-efficiency being cancelled out or not fully utilized. More dishwashers, dryers, microwave ovens, or innumerable smaller appliances can easily nullify savings. Nothing is as efficient as appliances which are not purchased. In addition people are inclined to use eco-efficient equipment more thoughtlessly. The link between more technology and increasing demands is notorious. With a vacuum cleaner, washing machine, etc., demands for cleanliness, hygiene, and freshness easily mount. For that reason it is not enough to establish potential for savings; implementing them also demands a modest life-style. Here too efficiency must be stabilized by sufficiency. Prudent behaviour opens up additional possibilities of saving.
Scott, Stephan and Pellman, Kenneth Living Without Electricity. Intercourse,PA: Good Books, 1990, Page 4
Early in this century, the large majority of Amish leaders agreed that connecting to power lines would not be in the best interest of their communities. They did not make this decision because they thought electricity was evil in itself, but because easy access to it could lead to many temptations and the deterioration of church and amily life. For similar reasons, the Amish refuse to own cars.
Bowman, Sarah. The Advantages of Driving a Buggy. Personal correspondence. April, 1997.
What I would do if I had the option of owning a car or horse and buggy, I can’t tell, but I know what I would do if I had the option of riding to work with a person who owns a car, or driving with my own horse and buggy. I choose my buggy for several reasons.
(1) I love being out in the open, being part of the elements whether rain or shine or severely cold. Some weather is considerably more pleasant than others, but after coming home on a miserably muddy and rainy day I have asked myself whether I wouldn’t prefer riding in a car. The answer is no. The reason is probably a sentimental one. I am reminded of other times when I was out in similar weather and felt the contentment and security of nestling behind an umbrella and getting to my destination in spite of the unfavourable weather. In cold weather there is a sense of victory in being able to “tough it.” And who needs to stop and think about the advantages of riding in the open buggy in pleasant weather? One can see and smell all the countryside sights and smells as the scenes pass in slow motion.
(2) Another reason I choose my buggy is that the slow, and therefore lengthy ride affords me lots of time to think and ponder life’s complexities. Meditate. To observe and learn about nature as the seasons pass. I often take my binoculars along and stop to watch the ducks and geese on the river, or to gaze at a bird up high in a tree that I noticed because of its beautiful song; or to look at the distant scenery from a hilltop.
(3) Another reason I choose to rather drive myself than to ride with a motorist is that I am more independent, but this would not be the case if I owned a car.
(4) Here is one other reason: If I forget to watch where I am going, the horse will know where to make the usual turns. If I fail to see a parked vehicle at the side of the road, or other obstacles such as a hole, etc., my horse sees. He may not know enough to turn aside far enough to allow for the buggy to pass safely, but by hesitating, or changing the rhythm of his running, I am alerted and see the problem. No car would do this.
(5) Oh yes, I must not forget to mention that when motorists feel frightened and powerless because of ice, or snow storms, I have little to worry. My horse will not slide on ice, or lose the way in snow. Nor will the buggy get stuck as soon as a car. Once I was behind a windshield in a snow flurry, and then I understood why motorists have such a fear of flying snow. The snow against the windshield was like a white wall. When you’re out in the flying snow, for some reason visibility is better. I have been frightened of swirling snow when driving in the dark and there was nothing to mark the edge of the road even though there was a deep ditch. There have also been one or two days in my life as a buggy driver that I was afraid to be out because of the cold, but those days are rare if one learns how to bundle up well. (I can give tips on this if so desired.)
Those are all the reasons I can think of at the moment, but they are enough to keep me cheerfully driving a horse on an open buggy. I have found that poor health makes it more difficult to enjoy, and endure, the exposure. Oh yes! I also enjoy the challenge of handling a horse, which doubtlessly adds to my enjoyment of driving a horse and buggy. So I don’t know if any of my reasons will convince anyone else, but those are my “good points” associated with this
type of transportation.
Peter F. Drucker, The Dimensions of Management, New York: 1977 ISBN0061664006, Page 33
No amount of efficiency would have enabled the manufacturer of buggy whips to survive.
Ford is Conceding S.U.V. Drawbacks By KEITH BRADSHER Robin Nelson for The New York Times
May 12, 2000
ATLANTA, May 11 — The Ford Motor Company, which depends on sport utility vehicles for much of its profit, acknowledged today that they cause serious safety and environmental problems.
In its first “corporate citizenship report,” issued at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting here, Ford said that the vehicles contributed more than cars to global warming, emitted more smog-causing pollution and endangered other motorists. The automaker said that it would keep building them because they provide needed profit, but would seek technological solutions to the problems and look for alternatives to the big vehicles.
Ford Motor’s voluntary admission that it faces an awkward situation because its most profitable products do not meet its goals for social responsibility has few parallels, according to Business for Social Responsibility, a corporate group in San Francisco.
In an interview, William C. Ford Jr., 43, the company’s chairman and a great-grandson of Henry Ford, depicted the company’s statements as a combination of altruism and long-term business planning. He said that he worried that automakers could wind up with reputations like those of big tobacco companies if they ignored sport utilities’ problems….
Newsletter of the Conservation Law Foundation, Boston. Richard Howard, Preventing Pollution Radio’s Road Scholars, Page 5
CLF: What can people do to make their cars as environmentally sound as possible?
Tom: The first and best thing you can do is don’t drive the stupid thing. Most people drive way too much.
Ray: One way to minimize your driving is to have a car that doesn’t run particularly well.
Tom: Yeah, like mine.
Ray: If it’s a joy to drive the car you’ll be out there driving all the time.
You want something that’s unpleasant.
Tom: You don’t want something that starts all the time. That’s one of the problems with Japanese cars. You get into a Japanese car and that SOB starts up winter, summer, it doesn’t matter. Let’s get back to American cars, because half the time in the winter they won’t start and that way you can reduce pollution.
Chenn, Donald D. T. “If you Build It, They Will Come.” STPP Progress March 1998, Page 4 and 7
Studies on induced traffic in the U.S. have been conducted since the 1940s, and it is now widely acknowledged that building more roads does not relieve congestion. If they had considered such evidence they would have found stories such as the West Side Highway in New York City. In 1973, one section of the highway collapsed, resulting in the closure of most of the route. In 1976 NYDOT did a study of the remaining portion of highway. Traffic counts taken three years before the closure and two years after revealed that 53 percent of the trips disappeared, and of those trips, 93 percent did not reappear else where—only seven percent of the lost traffic was diverted onto parallel roads.