This morning I told my wife our next car will be a hybrid. Knowing me, you would have thought I would have gone that route much earlier. The trouble is my gender. I’m a guy and you know how we like our cars to have a big engine. Well, two years ago, when I went to buy a new Ford Fusion, I asked for their V-6, previously the most powerful engine they offered for such cars. The salesman informed me that Ford no longer had a V-6 version and sold me on a turbo charged 4-cylinder engine. It got only slightly better gas mileage than my previous car and allow me to believe that I had the best engine available. I have altered my thinking. I am an excellent recycler but have not taken other issues to heart as I need.
I am a baby boomer which means I was raised in the era of muscle cars and cars we derisively, even then, called tanks. Most often we were referring to the big Buicks and Cadillacs. You need only go back to the 1960s and 70s to see the truth of such a statement. Then in 1974 OPEC came in to being, the U.S. immediately had a gasoline crisis and suddenly car manufacturers were shedding those tanks for smaller cars. But if you look more closely at such cars they were only marginally more fuel efficient than their predecessors. The requirement for better fuel efficiency was years away although new strict emission standards were put into effect.
But as the years passed, people forgot their history, and the era of the SUV entered. I named the Japanese versions of the crossover SUVs, the Acura MDX, the Infiniti QX70, and the Lexus RX as “a penis on wheels.” SUVs have exploded in the U.S. and both Japanese and U.S. manufacturers have done well with such vehicles. The problem is simple. Most SUVs are in the truck category which makes them exempt for two federal regulations, emission standards for automobiles and fuel standards. Detroit and Tokyo found the loophole and exploited it. Nothing has been done to close this loophole. And the most baffling product to come out of Detroit was General Motors version of the military HUM-V which the dubbed the Hummer.
This brings me the latest issue to rear its ugly head. The United States has the largest coal reserves on the planet and Pres. Donald Trump wants coal to be king again. In the short term, probably very short term, this would breath economic life back into the coal regions of the United States. But the trade-off is painfully obvious. Coal fired plants push extremely large amounts of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. The former creates a warming blanket in the earth upper atmosphere while the latter creates acid rain.
A very recent University of New Hampshire study of sea levels expects there to be a 1 to 1.5-foot rise in sea levels by 2050 (Boston Globe, March 31, 2018, p. 4). Another study of the polar ice caps, and in particular the North Pole:
“The Arctic climate is changing rapidly, breaking at least a dozen major records in the past three years. Sea ice is disappearing, air temperatures are soaring, permafrost is thawing and glaciers are melting. The swift warming is altering the jet stream and polar vortex, prolonging heat waves, droughts, deep freezes and heavy rains worldwide.” (Francis, Jennifer A.; Scientific American, April 2018, p. 50)
I find it alarming the American conservatives are so caught up in their political ideology that they cannot listen to the well-reasoned and heavily researched conclusions of the highly respected scientist who have sounded the alarm. Many have labeled these findings as pseudo-science and that their findings are questionable. Such a statement is difficult, if not impossible, to defend given the overwhelming majority of scientists around the world agree with these findings.
The hard fact is that we are bequeathing our children and grandchildren a planet in its death throws. We could easily be looking at widespread famine, large new deserts, and a world in which people go to war over food and water.
In 1960 a woman named Rachel Carson published a book named Silent Spring in which she predicted everything that is happening today. Now, scientists everywhere are sounding the alarm. The question is an easy one: Why is the Congress of the United States deaf to these warnings?