May 20, 2009

Le Figaro: "Now Americans Will REALLY Have To Reduce Their Gas Consumption"

So yeah, maybe French and Americans don't really like each other, but this headline (freely translated, capital lettering for highliting, entirely mine), I must say, made me smile. Indeed, for years and years we've heard all this baloney about "the need tto reduce contamination" and "the need to reduce our dependance of fossile fuels" and such stuff. Maybe you hear it in CBS or CNN, and in the break for advertising you are rushed head first with "Get your brand new Hunday for only $189 a month". Then again, 16 year-old children get to have a car. There's no way to identify yourself in the US unless it is with your driver's license. So, in order to be an identifiable person, you must have a driver's license, for which you have to learn how to drive, with which, at the end, you'll end up buying a car. So, stop for a moment and think: if you are a foreigner in the US, in order to be recognized, you need to have your passport (the document, not the scotch) and your green card or a visa or some sort (valid visa, you mind). But if you are American, and you are in your own country, it is not nearly enough to be born there to be aknoledged: you have to learn to drive in order to become someone. I mean, I'm Costa Rican, I was born (of course got a birth certificate and the whole shebang) and when I turned 18 and was legal to drink, smoke and vote, I made a line at my local Civil Register Bureau and got, free of charge a plastic card that up to this day works as my I.D. So in Hungary. Me was born, me got birth certificate. Me turned 18, went to my local municipal bureau, made a line, paid no fee and got my ID (which back then was a booklet, and now is a card, so I'll have to change it soon... not to mention my picturein my Hungarian ID is abhorrent).

So, the point it, the Government, my country is not forcing me to learn to drive in order to be aknowledged as a "citizen". I am a citizen because I was born Hungarian/Costa Rican. Period. Having or not a driver's license doesn't make me more or less than my peers. Well, not in America.

Now, I'd like to make a small observation here: it's not only the matter of a lot of advertising and a lot of "peer pressure" being put on American people to have a car, but it's the whole attitude towards cars. The Government is pretty much expecting you to drive, or why else to enforce the driver's licenses? And what will you drive? Your shoes? Your marriage? Gimmie a break. You are to drive a car. To ensure you do so, most city plannings are created thinking about cars and pleople with cars. Trying to get to work, lets say, with bike, PEDAL bike, not a motorcycle, is, well, in most cases something worthy of a Mr. Bean joke.

"To work? With a bike? Who are we? Armstrong? Hahahahahahahaha!!!"

And it's not so much for the effort of biking for miles, but the danger of rolling down those streets packed to the brim with cars rushing at 100+ Mph, which could squeeze you easily into a blurred spot on the asphalt. So, how is this "reduce your consumption of gas" going to work? You certainly can't change jobs to some office closer to home, because, let's be honest, there's a CRISIS out there and you need to claw into your job in order to support yourself, family, car and credit cards. So, that's not viable. You can't move closer to your office because there's people in your home who work somewhere else, or goes to school, or anything, and maybe you reduce your gas consumption, but they increase it, so No. If you have two jobs or more, you won't change them for them to be closer, or resign to have only one and use less gas, because, dude, you have two or jobs because you need them, not because you are doing them as hobbie. Then, even if you could move, do you think the current market could buy your home? At the fair price? And then, are you sure you could afford something sort of like that somewhere else? Yeah, I thought the same. So, again, No. Could you, maybe, use the "public transportation system"? Okay, let's break this into "boxes".

SorkizárásBox #1: You must LOCATE the public transportation portions that could take you from home to office and back. Or from home to office to office to office to school to home... or whatever route you normally follow in your trusty Rusty, Herbie, Jhonny, or whatever you call your car, if you do. Grab a map, Sunshine, and start planning. Oh, no GPS for public transportation, it's 100% Old School.

Box #2: You must SCHEDULE your plan. Yes, public transportation doesn't go straight to where you want to go, unless you take a cab, so you must locate the stops, the parts where you must go on foot from one stop to the next, and consider the time it takes you to do the entire travesy, so you know when you have to leave from one place to reach to the next. Note: Public Transportation can be unpredictable without notice. A 20 minute trip can become a 2 hour journey.

Box #3: Since the times have changed, you probably need to WAKE UP EARLIER, which means that maybe you'll be up at an hour when you weren't before, when everybody was asleep, and you'll be using water, electricity, gas and so on. And if there's more people in your place who may not have to wake up so early, then these things will be running longer in your household. Sure, everybody takes his or her own shower, BUT usually people use the same light, see the same tv, cook in the same pan, drink from the same coffeepot... so, if you must turn on the light for one person, turn on the tv for one person, make coffee for one person, you are using more electricity as a household, not to mention, that all the things you normally did in your car you'll have to do at your home (make up, tie, get your morning coffee...), which means even a longer usage of electricity per person.

Now, what does that have to do with anything? Well, electricity can be generated from several sources, that range from hidraulic, eolic, solar to fossile fuel (gas). Now, I made a bit of research on the matter, for the US, and it happens that, okay, for 2008 the use of petroleum and petroleum coke for generating electricity barely made the 1,11% of the whole. So, maybe there's no sudden threat or inflating the petroleum generated electricity when the demand of electricity per household goes up. Interestingly, though, in the U.S. the 48,52% of the energy comes from coal (not the cleanest source), followed by 19,61% of nuclear. Cleaner, maybe, I'm not a nuclear physicist, but I do can spell Chernobyl. So, leave the car in the garage and put some pressure in these two? Milk them more? Because the the hydroelectric souce makes up only the 6, 04%.

Here's the link for you to cros check if you wish. (The percentages are based on a simple calculus I ran, so download the info in Excel and diy.) Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Box #4: Because there IS a "box #4", okay, you manage. Locate the bus, metro, tramway, cab that can help you make your routes, schedule them, wake up early and light with candles, drink coke, eat Cheerios, don't watch the tv... whatever. All "buts" saved and hammered safely. So, you get on that proverbial "public transportation", and... what about the swine flu?

Oh, I know, problems never end, specially if I'm thinking them. But what's my point? My point is that so far all "solutions", as we all know, have been fake and just to keep up the pretention of "offering solutions". However, as things stand right now, there are no solutions. Electric cars are the solution? Yeah, and how are you planning in charging them up? With coal? Or you'll just slide a Plutonium rod up some slot? (Yes, I'm aware of how obscene that sounded.) And in the middle of a crisis, with carmakers begging for a bail out, people losing their jobs everywhere, wages being cut in any possible way, money running short, banks ravaging wallets worse than the Turks back in the Ottoman Occupation, where is going people to make it to change their old gas slurping Chevys for some hybrid or an electric car?

There's no way you could pull this out the way things are now. New city planning is required, more human cities, where you can walk to the local convenience store, your kids can walk to their schools, you can get to your office with one bus in 30 minutes or less. Ensure security, so your kid can walk freely and play in the street without being shot in the head and you can walk anywhere you want, alone or with friends, family without being afraid of getting robbed, raped, kidnapped or killed. For this specific segment of today's rather long entry, I chose the picture of this young rapper kid, Dolla, a 21 year-old child from Atlanta, who was murdered at a commercial center in Los Angeles, where he arrived to record his first album.

Driving a car doesn't save you from getting gunned, but doesn't make you feel safer? So, will you give it up? Will you take it from your child? Look at this boy, yes, of legal age, but look at his young face and dare to tell me he was due to die. This could be your kid. This could be you. This could be your nephew.

Cars and the consuming of fossile fuels are tied to a lot of things, the U.S. is pretty much wired up tight in gas, so when politicians come up with plans to reduce the gas consumption, they should sit and think about the implications, about how deep and how far runs the gas in the veins to today's America, and then think on a way to tackle all potential problems, so they have an answer for when they head up, and not just a bunch of motions to delay the bill, and crisis here and there lashing the backs of so many Americans just to fan the ego of one politician out of touch with reality.

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