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Monday, May 19, 2014

Oatmeal does Tesla

I came across this yesterday, but I can't figure out where I found it. One of my usual haunts I suppose. It's an entertaining story even though I disagree with just about everything he says, mostly on account of the price tag, but also on the basis of it can't be a real car because it doesn't have a real engine and it doesn't burn gasoline, but that's just my 60 years of being in thrall to the American automobile industry. (I'm not sure 'thrall' is the right word, but work with me here, alright?)
    On one hand you could argue that gasoline engines are superior to battery powered electric motors because electric cars need to get their power from the grid, which requires huge infrastructure investments in the form of coal mines, railroads, power plants and power lines. All gasoline powered cars require is a few gallons of a liquid fuel. This comparison breaks down when you realize the massive infrastructure that is set up to supply those few gallons of fuel: supercomputer powered geological exploration, multimillion dollar drilling rigs scattered all over the world, a fleet of supertankers and thousands of miles of pipelines, huge, complex refineries, and lastly a fleet of tanker trucks and filling stations to actually deliver the product.
    Having to plug in the car every night when you get home would be annoying, especially if you park on the street and you have to unroll your extension cord because you rolled it up in the morning and stowed it so the local pick-up-everything-that-isn't-nailed-down crew don't walk off with it during the day. Still, it might be better than having to drive to the filling station once a week. On the other hand there is the death of a thousand cuts. Yes, it's only one little chore, but it's one more little chore, and if you are already at the end of your rope, do you really want to have to deal with it?
    Perhaps one of these days they will come up with better batteries, or some other magical electricity producing box (Hey! How about a Honda generator?) and the daily charge routine will go away. Or maybe your employer will install a charger at your parking spot at work, one that automagically plugs itself in when you pull in and disconnects when you leave. (Why don't we have automatic filling stations? The auto industry is slacking. Nothing new there.)
    Then there's the whole getting-away-with-murder business. Electric cars don't use gasoline, therefore their owners don't buy any gasoline, which means they aren't paying any road use taxes! Unfair! Strike! Strike! Strike! If there were more than 2 or 3 of these things on the road this argument might carry some weight, but as it stands I find it hard to get worked up over it. After my initial outrage, anyway.
    And what about air pollution / emissions? Electric cars don't produce any emissions directly, but the coal burning power plants that supply most of our electricity certainly do. Some of these power plants are far away from city centers so you could say we have the benefit of spewing our nasty, poisonous gases in somebody else's backyard, and since no one lives there, at least no one important, it's okay. On the other hand when my Uncle first moved to New Mexico you could see clear to Taos from Los Alamos, or some other ridiculously long distance. Then the Four Corners power plant set up for business and now you are lucky if you can see Santa Fe. You can't actually see smog, it's just that the air is not near as clear as is used to be.
    If the atomic power industry hadn't been beset by political infighting they might have been able to deliver on their promise of power too cheap to meter, or at least nuclear power plants that still produced power instead of being shutdown, mothballed and demolished. But that's America for you. Can't do anything without some shitheads pissing in the pot because they are not getting the biggest share.

The biggest problem with electric cars is that if they become successful they are going to make entire industries obsolete, which is going to throw more people out of work. Yes, new industries require new workers, but we see how well that has been working out. Not. If anything we need to go back to mechanical lifters so you would need to get your valves adjusted monthly, which would put a whole boat load of people to work, but then some wise guy would invent self-adjusting lifters and that would be the end of that. Oh, wait, that's where we are now.

The only solutions I can think of are:
  • Negative Income Tax, which has a snowball's chance in hell of being implemented.
  • Primitive farming. The Amish seem to be doing very well.
  • Pyramids. The ancient Egyptian civilization lasted for thousands of years. Maybe we should follow their example.

1 comment:

Ole Phat Stu said...

You probably found the Tesla link here :-