This weekend Sarah and I are visiting her hometown of Wenatchee, WA for their annual Apple Blossom Festival. So far it has been visiting family, going to the foodcourt (like the food section of any carnival) and a new experience for me, The Classy Chassis (A Chassis is a framework that supports an inanimate object, analogous to an animal’s skeleton, for example in a motor vehicle or a firearm,” thank you Wikipedia).
Basically this was a parade showcasing great cars. Largely it was a ‘mine is bigger (or classier) than yours’ show. While cars are not exactly my cup of tea (the most advanced thing I or my father have ever done to a car is change a tire), it was a fun community event and there were some pretty cool and fun vehicles. But it was too long and by the end I began to feel the exhaust and burnt rubber in my mouth. Like I said, not really my thing anyway. Going to this event made me realize that cars are a deep a deep rooted American tradition.
As we were walking back to our car (we couldn’t last longer than an hour and a half) my father in law’s first comment was about how much gas this event probably spent. When we got back he showed me an article in the Wall Street Journal: “Utilities, Plug-In Cars: Near Collision?” (Friday, May 2, 2008).
In the article it discussed a new generation of hybrid cars that can “run 10 to 40 miles on an electric powered battery before they have to tap their gasoline engine.” (Actually they had one of these at the Classy Chassis) The problem with these kinds of cars is the need of electricity. We can’t get around the fact that to run something takes some kind of energy. But here is the deal, if we were responsible enough to charge our cars at night, when demand for electricity is low, we could currently “met the electricity of 73% of the nations light vehicles if the vehicles were replaced by plugins”! That is without ramping up our ability to produce electricity. This kind of technology is hopeful and exciting to me.
This kind of technology would cut our “oil consumption by 6.2 million barrels a day, eliminating 52% of current imports.” For a country addicted to gasoline this would be a huge improvement.
As my father in law remarked, whether your issue of choice is the environment, the economy, or national security, we all have to agree that we need to use less gasoline. Electricity may well be the best option for that right now. However, that means letting go of an American tradition that is, as I saw last night at the Classy Chassis, a deeply rooted tradition. The American public has grown up with the love of cars (although somehow I missed it), but for us to consume less gas, we will have to change that mentality. It may take a change in culture, but nothing changes culture like $4/gallon gas.