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WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT - JUNE, 2018: AIR CON, DIESEL, SCIENCE

Installing the first window air conditioner in the living room of our little ranch house in New Jersey in the 1960s didn't change our lives very much. The only unit in the house, its benefits didn't reach down the hall and into our bedrooms. We still slept under window fans. We still sweated in our sleep. My wife Cathey, on the other hand, spent her youth in Texas. She went from an air-conditioned house to an air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned playground...well...not exactly. But AC was definitely a fact of life for her. So when the AC in our old Citroen Xantia went on the fritz last summer, it needed to be fixed. No question. Cathey laid down the law. No AC? No marriage.

Have you ever tried to find AC parts for a 20 year-old car? They exist but they are as rare as politicians with callouses. Hence the search began for a new...albeit used...car.

I searched for a diesel-powered vehicle with a manual transmission. Abundant trunk space. Big enough to carry five adults in a pinch. (On seats, not in the trunk.) Preferably a French marque because I will be depending on French mechanics to keep it running. Why manual? Because I like to feel as if I'm driving my car and not guiding it down the highway while sitting on a sofa. Why diesel? Because diesels last 50% longer on average than gasoline engines.

But wait. What about pollution? Diesels are dirty, aren't they? Don't you care about the environment?

Here's where it gets interesting.

You see, I believe in science. I believe that two plus two equals four and not some number approximating four. (And yes, I am aware of non-Euclidean geometry. I just don't choose to acknowledge it's existence until it demonstrates its practical use by providing the means for faster than light travel.) And science tells me that modern diesels are better for the environment, not to mention the body politic, than even electric cars.

Let me repeat that.

Modern diesels are better for the environment and for the body politic than electric cars.

In America, the federal government and many of the states provide tax breaks or other subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles. How can this be a bad thing? When you consider that more than half of the purchasers of electric vehicles have incomes above $100,000 annually and that a plurality of those have incomes of over $200,000, it's reasonable to ask why it's necessary to provide the most affluent among us with one more gift paid for by the average taxpayer. And when you add the subsidies that feds and local municipalities provide to utility companies for the establishment of charging stations, the most affluent 2% of Americans, whose EVs comprise 1% of the cars on American highways, have the rest of us to thank for their shiny new, quiet rides.

But spending taxpayer money to the benefit of rich folks is OK as long as the environment benefits, right? Wrong. The environment does not benefit, at least it doesn't in the US, the second biggest carbon polluter in the world. 30% of US electricity is still produced by coal-fired plants and the Trumpster has just directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to find ways to keep failing coal-fired plants open. (Luckily, putting a policy decision in Rick Perry's hands is like directing a monkey to type out a Shakespeare play. Eventually, the odds indicate that the monkey will be successful. It will just take time. Lots and lots and lots and lots of time.)

The point is, as long as the US is burning carbon-based fuels, the pollution generated by the power plants necessary to service the electric vehicles pollute more than the vehicles that the EVs replace. And that includes diesels. Yes, I know. Diesels have a reputation of being dirty. But modern diesel technology has fixed most of the problem, especially with improved particulant filters. So yes, new diesels are more environmentally sound than old gas engines, equivalent to modern gas engines, and when you add in the better fuel mileage and longer useful life, are actually superior. Then add in the cost to the environment posed by the necessity to mine the components for rechargeable batteries for the EVs. In sum, my purchase of a diesel-powered car is the most environmentally sound choice that I could make.

Do I need to drive in the major cities of France that have or will ban diesels? No. Will there come a time when the advantages of EVs will outweigh the environmental cost? Probably, particularly in societies committed to conversion to renewable energy production. But today? I'll take diesel, thank you very much.

What's really important? Two plus two equals four...
 





Comments

  1. Very Interesting Ira ..... the only fault I find is that in France the electricity is not mass generated by coal. I almost purchased a diesel last month ...but , my friend who is trying to SELL his immaculate 2 year old diesel told me he can't find any trader willing to pay a half decent price in part exchange for a petrol automatic . Which I drive ...lol

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    Replies
    1. Yes, France has been effective in discouraging diesel sales. And don't forget that Americans in the USofA are a good portion of my audience. That having been said, there's still the overall question of the environmental cost of the conversion to electric when power generation, battery composition, and other non-tailpipe issues are factored in. EVs are certainly the way of the future. I just think that we are jumping the gun by a generation or two.

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  2. Exactly ...a friend has purchased an EV .... 69 euros a month battery rental ...same as my gas bill ...ho hum...and needs to be charged 12 hours a day to run 250 km in the winter months .Good for collecting the daily baquette?

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  3. Can an old diesel be converted or improved by having a 'newer' dieseNengine l engine Implanted?

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  4. Engines are generally not interchangeable. That is, a 2018 Megane engine will generally not be able to be installed in a much older Megane body. It may be possible to do some filtering by altering the exhaust system, but I doubt that it would be easy to do or very effective.

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