Californians hate their Environmental Policies so much they buy Chevy Volts to Cheat the System

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 9th, 2012

Week in Review

Buses are cheaper than trains.  Because all a bus needs is fuel in its tanks and firm ground to drive on.  A train on the other hand is very expensive.  Because wherever a train goes you need a dedicated road (i.e., railroad tracks).  A massive infrastructure wherever that road goes.  And an army of people to maintain and operate it.  Subways are even more expensive.  Because they are underground.  Which makes everything more costly.

California has spent a fortune on their trains in the greater Los Angeles area.  So let us compare a few statistics on both buses and trains.  Buses are more numerous.  They have 183 bus routes covering 1,433 square miles.  While they have 5 rail lines for a total of 79.1 rail miles in service.   Their buses have average weekday boardings of approximately 1,125,840.  While their trains have average weekday boardings of approximately 319,883.  (These numbers are approximate because one train line’s boardings are included in the Metro Bus ridership numbers for some reason). 

It is clear their trains are not moving anywhere near the number of people their buses are moving.  And for all that investment it hasn’t even helped to remove cars from the road or cut pollution.  Because the roads are still so congested that they have High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) or car pool lanes on their expressways.  To encourage people to save the planet.  By jamming as many people into a car as possible for their commutes to work.  For if they do they can take the less congested HOV lanes and cut an hour or so off of their drive time.  Well, it turns out that not only do Californians hate taking the bus and train they also hate car pooling.  Enter the Chevy Volt.  The answer to all of their dreams (see Volt sales surge in California thanks to car-pool access by Peter Valdes-Dapena posted 6/7/2012 on CNN Money).

Sales of General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt plug-in car, which had been dwindling in recent months, are enjoying a big resurgence in California, a state with some of the highest gas prices in the nation.

But the uptick in Volt sales isn’t about saving gas; it’s more about saving time.

Despite being incredibly fuel efficient, the Volt’s emissions when operating on gasoline weren’t clean enough to qualify it to drive in California’s car-pools lanes, relegating Volt owners to the whims of grueling California traffic.

But now, thanks to some new engineering tweaks to fix that issue, 2012 model year Volts sold in California can drive in those free-flowing HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes — even with only one person in the car…

California car buyers will jump at any opportunity to drive in HOV lanes.

Those lanes flow much more smoothly than other traffic-choked lanes on California highways, especially at rush hour, O’Dell said.

O’Dell owns a car with an HOV-lane sticker and says that when he’s driving that car, he gets to work in about an hour. When he’s driving a car without the sticker it takes him from two to two-and-a-half hours, he said.

In addition to HOV-lane access, the Volt is also eligible for a $1,500 state tax rebate in California on top of a $7,500 federal tax credit. Some local governments in California offer additional benefits for plug-in car buyers, as well.

The Chevy Volt allows these people do what they want to do.  Stay off the buses.  Stay off the trains.  And drive their cars.  Alone.  And it has nothing to do with saving the planet.  They just want to drive in the HOV lanes and save a couple of hours driving each day.  And they’re willing pay more to be able to do that.  For time is money.  And life.  Time lost sitting in traffic and waiting for a bus or a train is time that we can never get back.

California has the strictest environmental laws in the country.  But when it comes to living with the consequences of these laws the people will look to cheat.  As they are with the Chevy Volt.  Which will reverse all the progress the environmentalists have made in restricting people’s freedoms in California.  By placing such a high opportunity cost on driving a car alone.  Painfully long commutes.  But thanks to the Chevy Volt Californians can do what they’re always wanted to do.  Drive their gasoline-powered cars.  In the fast lane.  Hell, they may never plug in their hybrids.  And pretend they’re driving real cars in the fast lane.  Just to relish the knowledge that they’re putting one over on the environmentalists.

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Flint Tools, Levers, Wheels, Animal Power, Water Power, Wind Power, Steam Power, Electrical Power, Nuclear Power and Solar Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 22nd, 2012

Technology 101

Man harnessed the Energy in Moving Water with a Water Wheel

When prehistoric man first chipped a piece of flint to make a sharp edge he learned something.  It made work easier.  And his life better.  This tool concentrated his energy into that sharp edge.  Increasing the amount of energy he could put to work.  Allowing him to skin an animal quickly and efficiently like never before.  Making better hides to protect him from the elements.  Yes, he said, this tool is good.  But in a somewhat less sophisticated manner of speech.

From that moment forward it has been man’s singular desire to improve on this first tool.  To find ways to concentrate energy and put it to work.  Levers allowed him to move heavier things.  Wheels allowed him to move heavier loads.  The block and tackle allowed him to lift or pull heavier weights.  Harnessing animals allowed him to do all of these things even better.  And we would use animal power for millennia.  Even today they still provide the primary source of power for some less developed countries.

But animals have their limitations.  They’re big, they eat, drink, pee and poop.  Which doesn’t make them an ideal source of power to turn a mill wheel.  A big wheel that grinds grain into flour.  It’s heavy.  But it doesn’t have to spin fast.  Just for long periods of time.  Then man had another moment like he did when he chipped a piece of flint.  He noticed in his environment that things moved.  The wind.  And the water in a river.  The wind could blow fast or slow.  Or not at all.  But the water flow was steady.  And reliable.  So man harnessed the energy in the moving water with a water wheel.  And connected it to his mill wheel via some belts and pulleys.  And where there was no water available he harnessed the less reliable wind.

The Steam Engine eliminated the Major Drawbacks of Water Power and Wind Power 

The water flowed day and night.  You didn’t have to feed it or clean up after it.  And a strong current had a lot of concentrated energy.  Which could do a lot of work.  Far more than a sharpened piece of flint.  Which was ideal for our first factories.  The water wheel shaft became a main drive shaft that drove other machines via belts and pulleys.  The main drive shaft ran the length of the factory.  Workers could operate machinery underneath it by engaging it to the main drive shaft through a belt and pulley.  Take a trip to the past and visit a working apple mill powered by a water wheel.  It’s fascinating.  And you’ll be able to enjoy some fresh donuts and hot cider.  During the harvest, of course.

While we built factories along rivers we used that other less reliable source of energy to cross oceans.  Wind power.  It wasn’t very reliable.  And it wasn’t very concentrated.  But it was the only way you could cross an ocean.  Which made it the best way to cross an ocean.  Sailors used everything on a sailing ship from the deck up to catch the wind and put it to work.  Masts, rigging and sails.  Which were costly.  Required a large crew.  And took up a lot of space and added a lot of weight.  Space and weight that displaced revenue-earning cargo.

The steam engine eliminated the major drawbacks of water power and wind power.  By replacing the water wheel with a steam engine we could build factories anywhere.  Not just on rivers.  And the steam engine let ships cross the oceans whenever they wanted to.  Even when the wind didn’t blow.  And more space was available for revenue-earning cargo.  When these ships reached land we transferred their cargoes to trains.  Pulled by steam locomotives.  That could carry this revenue-earning cargo across continents.   This was a huge step forward.  Boiling water by burning coal to make steam.  A highly concentrated energy source.  A little of it went a long way.  And did more work for us than ever.  Far more than a water wheel.  It increased the amount of work we could do so much that it kicked off the Industrial Revolution.

With Nuclear Power our Quest to find more Concentrated Forms of Energy came to an End 

We replaced coal with oil in our ships and locomotives.  Because it was easier to transport.  Store.  And didn’t need people to shovel it into a boiler.  Oil burners were more efficient.  We even used it to generate a new source of power.  Electrical power.  We used it to boil water at electrical generating plants to spin turbines that turned electrical generators.  We could run pipelines to feed these plants.  Making the electricity they generated even more efficient.  And reliable.  Soon diesel engines replaced the oil burners in ships and trains.  Allowed trucks and buses to run where the trains didn’t.  And gasoline allowed people to go anywhere the trains and buses didn’t go.

The modern economy ran on petroleum.  And electricity.  We even returned to the water wheel to generate electricity.  By building dams to build huge reservoirs of water at elevations.  Creating huge headwater forces.  Concentrating more energy in water.  Which we funneled down to the lower elevation.  Making it flow through high-speed water turbines connected to electrical generators.  That spun far faster than their water wheel ancestors.  Producing huge amounts of reliable electrical power.  We even came up with a more reliable means to create electrical power.  With an even more concentrated fuel.  Fissile material gave us nuclear power.  During the oil shocks of the Seventies the Japanese made a policy change to expand their use of nuclear power.  To insulate them from future oil supply shocks.  Which it did.  While in America the movie The China Syndrome came out around the time of the incident at Three Mile Island.  And killed nuclear power in America.  (But as a consolation prize we disproved the idea of Keynesian stimulus.  When the government created massive inflation with Keynesian policy.  Printing money.  Which raised prices without providing any new economic activity.  Causing instead high inflation and high unemployment.  What we call stagflation.  The Japanese got a big Keynesian lesson about a decade later.  When their massive asset bubble began to deflate giving them their Lost Decade.)

And with nuclear power that quest to find more ways to make better and more efficient use of concentrated energy from that first day we used a flint tool came to an end.  Global warming alarmists are killing sensible sources of energy that have given us the modern world.  Even animal rights activists are fighting against one of the cleanest sources of power we’ve ever used.  Water power.  Because damming rivers harms ecosystems in the rivers we dam.  Instead political pressures have turned the hands of time backwards by using less concentrated and less efficient sources of energy.  Wind power.  And solar power.  Requiring far greater infrastructure installations to capture far less amounts of energy from these sources.  Power plants using wind power and solar power will require acres of land for windmills and solar panels.  And it will take many of these power plants to produce what a single power plant using coal, oil, natural gas or fissile material can generate.  Making power more costly than it ever has been.  Despite wind and sunshine being free.  And when the great civilizations become bankrupt chasing bankrupt energy policies we will return to a simpler world.  A world where we don’t make and use power.  Or machinery.  Much like our flint-tool using ancestors.  Albeit with a more sophisticated way of expressing ourselves.

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Cars are Better for the Environment and more Convenient than Trains in L.A.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 10th, 2011

Week in Review

California is going broke.  Out of control public sector pension and health care costs.  The high cost of regulation hindering the economy.  And spending money on light rail that the people don’t want.  And makes it take more time to get from point A to point B (see 17 Miles in Just 78 Minutes! Light Rail vs. Reality in LA by Reason TV posted 12/9/2011 on YouTube).

They spent billions of dollars for these trains.  They’re slower than the buses.  They run emptier than the buses.  They subsidize them almost 10 times as much as the buses.  And the average light rail trip uses more energy than a car per passenger mile.  About twice as much.  Which means they contribute more to global warming than cars do.  In other words, this is why California is in the financial mess they’re in.  Bad government policy.

It took 78 minutes to travel 17 miles.  If you do the math that’s about 13 miles per hour.  If you drove in a car on a road with a 35 mph speed limit you would have made it in about 30 minutes.  For a round trip that’s an hour of drive time compared to about 2 .6 hours of train time.  Well, train and bus time.  Because there are a few transfers.

Cars are cheaper and use less energy than trains in L.A.  And they are so much more convenient.  So why are they replacing cars with trains?  More union jobs to build these lines.  And more public sector jobs to run these lines.  That and I guess for the global warming.

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