Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cutting The Gordian Crap; Possibility 2

Can't stand it, going to give in to a sideways rant today. This is what set me off: Bio Gas.

Basically, Big Oil is "explaining" that they "can't" afford to develop their industry to the point where it is reliable- because of the uncertainties connected with ethanol. Like what happens to the price when there's a bad corn crop?

Our whole society has gotten SO used to the "BIG LIE" tactic that we don't even note when it happens anymore. The "Journalists", and I use the word with great sarcasm, just report what the Big Liars say- and make a footnote about the contrary opinion, and let it loose in the headlines.

The result is an impenetrable tangle of Big Lies- and Big Half-Lies (like this one) - which are actually far more dangerous to our society. That little scrap of truth makes it possible for those with a good 5th grade education (the goal of all NeoCon education policy) to vehemently support, and vote for, falsehoods that are utterly not in their own interest.

It's the Gordian Knot of our time, or the Gordian Crap, as I call it; which can also be cut. Gordian Knot (Wikipedia haters- sorry, but it was just way more accesible and relevant than anything else.)

Big Oil is stealing money as fast as they can, before someone in Congress wakes up.

"Ooh, we're SO sorry our profits are creating ALL TIME records! It's really not our fault! It's the markets! That 40 Billion dollars we siphoned out of your pockets last year? We really couldn't help it! We also couldn't help that we did it again, and again, and again." All Time Record Profits

Liar liar, pants on fire.

(Incidentally, if I turn up dead tomorrow, you'll know why. You think $40 Billion/yr isn't adequate motivation for killing? Many times?)

So, Exxon (and everyone else in Big Oil) you're telling me that-

a) nobody in your company NOTICED you were making record high profits, repeatedly?

b) nobody in your company thought- "hm, if we take an extra $20 BILLION out of the economy, some of our customers, and their businesses, might be hurt."? (one lucid example: fishing license purchases, and boat license purchases, in Minnesota are down- substantially- which means a bunch of related businesses will have profits- down.)

c) nobody in your company has the AUTHORITY to say "let's cut our prices just a tad- take a little less profit this quarter."?

I really don't believe it; though I suppose it's possible you're all really that stupid. Your actions certainly suggest that.

Very basic biology- if you want to be a successful parasite (that would be you) The First Rule is; DON'T KILL OFF YOUR HOST BY STEALING TOO MUCH.

And we read the headlines- say "tsk, tsk" - and move on. Very encouraging.

Well, enough crap cutting. How about something we could DO? This comes under the category of "we have not yet BEGUN to think."

One of the biggest problems we face as a society right now is the unstated, unrecognized assumption in our thinking that our problems are the result of LOGICAL developments.

We're in this difficult place for a reason; we assume.

No, we're not; much human development is often more a matter of pure chance than logic. (Another barrier to realizing that is organized religions- they don't like that idea at all.)

That's basically good news, though; because it means there could be LOGICAL ways OUT of our difficulties. Like this:

Problem: We consume way too much gasoline and diesel fuel- more than we can continue to produce, and too much for our atmosphere to handle.

Answer: Consume less.

Aha. Easier said than done! you reply.

No, VERY easy to do; it just takes some collective will power, and a bit of growing up.

TRUTH, now- do you NEED a car with 250 Horsepower?

No, of course not. It's huge fun- but it's not necessary to get from here to there. Everybody knows that. But the Spoiled Brats of the world prevail, throwing tantrums and kicking their heels, when anyone suggests taking away their dangerous toys.

Their toys are DANGEROUS. They kill people in crashes, and suffocate us with pointless carbon dioxide, and cause hurricanes, for crying out loud.

We have to take the toys away. Are you a grownup, or not?

Why do we currently have highways populated with SUV's with 500 horses, and "sports cars" with 900 horses? Because this whole phenomenon just grew up- unregulated by any adults- from the horse and buggy. There was no one to say NO when some mechanic decided that if 10 horsepower was amazing, 50 horsepower would REALLY sell.

All those extra horses are totally pointless, apart from the adrenalin- and just burn gas for nothing. My TRACTOR has only 40 horses- and it has power to spare.

I contend- a nation of grownups would rule that :

No cars shall be built with more than 35 horsepower.

Gasp!!! You can't DO that! It's my RIGHT to ....

No, it really ISN'T your right. At all.

How about safety? The road would be much safer; everybody owns a car that will cheerfully cruise at 70 mph- but takes 2 minutes to get there. You'll have to think ahead. That's good.

We could talk about pleasure boats- ATVs- snowmobiles- also.

Obviously- emergency vehicles, cop cars, trucks- should have the horsepower they actually need. Which will still be much less than at present. I'd be totally happy for cop cars to have 200 horses, and ambulances.

Reasonable? I have to say yes. Logical? Certainly. Would it cut our fuel use? HUGELY.

Being discussed anywhere? Certainly not.

Better that poor Mexicans starve- and die- so we can have more ethanol, and not change our habits. (This IS already happening, in case you are not aware - price quadruples?)

Ok; a very reasonable response from YOU at this point would be- "sure, this is logical; but it's totally unrealistic- it's just not going to happen, the barriers and inertia are way too much."

Which I will grant is absolutely true. Lots of powerful people really don't want to give up their toys, and profits, and they'll scream "FREEDOM" really loud- and all the NeoCon Fifth Graders will vote along.

So, how about this, instead- a HorsePower Tax. Every year; part of the license plate fees.

Up to 35 horses, free (I think there are NO cars made with engines this small at the moment- because, um, we're trained to lust after "Zero to Sixty in 4.3 Seconds!" - but we could require all makers to offer such vehicles- next year...) For bigger engines- bigger annual tax, by the horse, with the annual tax rate rising as the engines get bigger. Older cars.... we could work something out.

Take that tax money and put it into mass transit, maybe.

It would help, and it would be a move in the right direction- which might make the next move in that direction possible, in the future.

Logical. I'd even say "obvious" as a possibility - if anyone were REALLY THINKING about answers for our problems. But mostly we don't- we're trained by our entire educational process to READ- and comment. Not actually think.

So. Whaddya think?

(Hey, Vanessa- this would make a good letter to somebody... :-) AND- I think it's abundantly clear that Canadians in general are more grown up than USAers. It would be fabulous for Canada to lead the way here.........................)


Anne said...

I think the profit thing is sicker than that... they're claiming the extra-high prices are the result of lack of refinery capacity. So why not limit profits and build more refineries? Well... that would hurt profits.

I like the taxing horsepower idea. It also seems fair to me to put more of the social costs of gasoline into the price at the pump and take them out of what our income taxes go to...

Chryss said...

Go, Greenpa, go!

TB said...

Hey Greenpa,

your blog is interesting and inspirational reading - thanks for living it and sharing it with us all. But as much as I agree with you about the wisdom of greatly reducing consumption, there's a little problem with your proposal. It's called "democracy".

If any sitting government body in the US (or in my own country of Australia) tried to enact a legislation like the one you've proposed they'd be challenged in the courts and dumped from office at the soonest possible opportunity. Maybe even burned at the stake.

It's probably a good thing that public awareness of global warming and the need to respond has reached the level that it has. But I deeply wish it had been the issue of peak oil and/or peak coal which had come to prominence first. The latest figures I've seen suggest global warming will be a fizzle because there just isn't enough oil left for us to burn in order to produce the amount of CO2 that's been predicted.

I'm not confident that our global society is capable of expanding its attention to encompass peak oil as well as global warming. And I'm seriously worried about the willingness of its people to embrace a low-energy future.

I salute the Transition Towns of the UK and the Relocalize groups of the world and any others like them. First we need to change the people, and then we can start changing the laws.

Anonymous said...

I'll make sure that if your posts stop coming to raise the alarm. Luckily, I don't think Big Oil reads blogs -- too busy counting money!

anna j said...

your logic is inspiring.

a friend of mine blogged yesterday about the economics of gas prices in that there tends to be a happy median price between the upswings (to the point of reduced demand because the price becomes "too much") and the downswings (to the point where the price is low enough to get people to start buyign again) in price. he purports that Big Oil noticed in the last couple years that people DON'T start buying less gas when the price goes up into the traditionally "too much" area, and so they see no reason to bring prices down when they can make monstrous profits without losing business.

for the sake of citing sources, the link to my friend's blog is:
(the post is called "half a tuesday")

Greenpa said...

TB- well- I actually made comments much like your own in the post. I may be a little more optimistic, though; one of the topics in my list, waiting for coverage, is "pushing on icebergs".

The icebergs are metaphorical; massive- but actually moveable. If you keep pushing, they DO move. I've done it, am still doing it. But you have to get used to the idea that you can't SEE anything happening.

You just start; and keep pushing. They do move. Hang in there.

Pea said...


I would love to get rid of cars altogether. In Europe, most people travel by train, bus or bicycle. The weather doesn't matter. In college, I had a Honda scooter that got probably around 100 miles a gallon. I rode it everywhere in even the worst weather. I now have an enormous SUV that is paid for. My husband bought it for me when I was pregnant and my smaller car had frequent engine failure. I rarely drive my car and maybe fill it up once a month. We are going car shopping to look for a more environmentally friendly vehicle for me, but my concern now is: What happens to this SUV? If we sell it or trade it, someone will buy it and they may drive it more than I do. What happens to all the enormous SUV's and other vehicles out there. What is the best solution to all the cars on the road now? These things keep me awake at night. I don't even want to own a car, but I have a small child and if there is an emergency and my husband is away, we live out in the middle of nowhere. I wish there was a car recycling program, where you could trade a vehicle and all the parts would get reused in something smaller and better for the environment. I'm also wishing for safe bike paths in every city, so I can ride my bike with my child.

TB said...

By coincidence, Colin's post today makes a similar point to my earlier comment regarding the futility of trying to solve these issues through top-down political means.

The exception, I suppose, is that any politician who becomes personally convinced of the need for change is in a far more influential position than most of us. But I still maintain that for a dramatic change like taxing horsepower you'd better get the people on board first.

Greenpa said...

TB- I think you'll laugh- we're really talking about the same thing. "But I still maintain that for a dramatic change like taxing horsepower you'd better get the people on board first."

Heck yes! Stuff like that never comes first from the politicians - they follow the populace. Sorry- I'm dumb enough I did think that was obvious.

But- one of the very effective tactics there is to TALK to your legislative people; get THEM "buzzing" on the topic. What'll happen is this;

Legislator: "Gosh, Harry, one of my constituents asked me about this new Horsepower Tax today. Never heard of it. Have YOU? Any of your constituents pushing for this crazy idea?"

Legor 2: "HorsePower Tax?? Insane. Never happen; never heard of it."

Then they both go back to their office; and ask their staff to look into it...

More people hear about it, talk about it- a few start saying- ya know, that's really not such a bad idea... they start asking CONSTITUENT groups about it... THEY start discussing it....

and eventually, the iceberg moves.

Which does NOT mean you're not pushing from the bottom up, as hard as you can, at the same time.

It does work faster if you can push both ways simultaneously. I've actually done it. It took 20 years. But the iceberg moved.

Anonymous said...

While, in theory, this is a good idea, I'm not so convinced just yet. My big concern is along the lines of pea's comment. If no vehicle in America (the world?) is on the road with less than 35 horses, what happens when this horsepower tax goes into effect? Every single car-owning citizen would suffer this tax, and a lot of citizens would sell their cars. But surely there would be buyers to take their place in the emissions/horsepower drama. Millions of people would not be able to afford either the tax or to buy a new car. What happens to them? Will subsidies be granted to people downsizing? What will happen to all the vehicles out there right now? I contend that most of them would still be out there, making emissions, with all the added smaller-hp-cars adding to it. Is that necessarily better?

Pardon my obtuseness this morning... it's morning naptime... LOL!

Anonymous said...

An interesting article I found yesterday:

Greenpa said...

Pea, and Lori- gosh, I totally dealt with all that stuff in the post "for older cars- we could work something out..."

That was partly humor- acknowledging that I was just blowing off a big topic; but also pointing in the right direction, I think. You betcha, the older cars aren't going away. But something COULD be worked out.

Transitions always drive everyone involved crazy- seems to be no real way around that. One old standby to help out is the "phase it in" path- for example, start out with "only cars built in the last five years will be subject to the full horsepower tax" (OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT - this is the kind of thing that folks fuss about for a long time, eventually reaching a nice compromise that ticks all parties off equally; we hope.) Lots of "phase in' options exist, and it sure would be counterproductive to make a lot of plain folk bear the burden.

Still- something like; "for 1990-96; cars with up to 100 horsepower will not be taxed; cars up to 150 hp taxed (lightly); cars over 200 hp taxed (heavily); cars over 300 hp taxed at (twice heavily) - somehow; so that "muscle cars" always have to pay for it, and "mainstream" cars don't get clobbered. Except for new ones.

It could be done. But I admit; I don't wanna be at those meetings working on the compromises.

Greenpa said...

Oh, and- one good thing; those brand new 35 hp cars SHOULD be considerably CHEAPER than the basic models from the previous year- those big engines are EXPENSIVE; and HEAVY. So buying a new, low HP car could be made much more attractive.

Isle Dance said...

Ironically, the benefit to these high gas prices is that it's motivated more people to now live more simply. Until the pocketbook hit, they could not understand the benefit. The beautiful cycle of life. :)

Anonymous said...


I came here from NoImpactMan while reading up from Feb 2007 to the present...

I just wanted to tell everyone, that even having only a 6,7 horsepower (5 kW) electrical motor is enough to drive about 85 km/h (about 53 mph) and have nice acceleration.

I do that with my TWIKE, an electric car for 2 people, see:

And according to NIM philosophy I just did it - without waiting for government to tell me to use a greener car. ;-)

In that way I can live with very low impact for the 17000 yearly kilometers I have to drive: My TWIKE uses about 8 kWh/100 km (would be 0,8 l gasoline/100 km or - hopefully converted correctly - 294 miles/gallon).

And as it is an electric car, I was finally able to switch to renewable energy for driving - I use what we call "├ľkostrom" in Germany (green electricity - only from wind, water and solar cells).