Wednesday, August 12, 2009

sustainable power hunger

So Chevy finally came out with some inflated numbers on the miles per gallon (mpg) of what its new Gas-Electric hybrid the Volt will get, claiming 230 mpg. Compared to the kinds of numbers that Americans are used to hear regarding mpg this sounds amazing. True to form Chevy has come up with a way to exaggerate or mislead the figures into their favor to make the vehicle seem more impressive than it potentially already is, but shades of deception tarnish a possibly admirable stride in setting some kind of standard in the automobile industry, at least in the States. Chevy is not mentioning that the gas kicks in after so many miles already traveled (I think it is 40 miles or so) and by not disclosing such discrepancies, they are massaging the numbers as a marketing strategy. This is not new to my understanding and the automobile industry has been doing that for years since that part of the vehicles performance was of concern to the customer. Testing in conditions that would far exceed the conditions that the typical consumer would find themselves in or by using some sort of measuring methodology that has a high rate of inaccuracy so that they can add in the fine print +/- a certain amount knowing full well that it is minus, etc., it would not surprise me if there are plenty more tactics that are not widely known.

As a response Nissan has recently unveiled their new electric vehicle the Leaf. Using the same mpg measuring methodology and as a kind of upping the ante of car industry rhetoric, claims that the their new products gets a whopping 367 mpg, a 60% increase. As another deserved slap in the face of Chevy it is easier for Nissan to flaunt the fact that it is on average, depending on the bells and whistles opted for, the Nissan Leaf is 37.5% cheaper in price than the Volt. One could find this telling for a car company who is, let's say, "no longer in their prime" and probably was banking on a rejuvenation with this latest product which even before its release date is finding competition that already seems to leave it behind. This company which has been in bed with whoever it needed to continue the security of its own interest (not unlike most other American run corporations).

This is all fine and good. Better mpg's are better for the consumer. And the environment? Maybe? Where does the electricity come from? There is a few different ways that we all should be aware of. Such as: coal burning to turn generators, nuclear, renewables. Since renewable are a substantial enough part of the national grid, it is futile to mention it in a conversation regarding the implementation of a new fuel station for automobiles. So the former 2 mentioned means of acquiring electricity have consequences that rival burning petrochemicals. Whether the impacts of such usage are atmospheric consequences with emission of burning coal or storage problems and ground water contamination of nuclear the consequences are real and potent. From an environmental stand point it is simply changing the poison and not remedying anything. It is no coincidence that the largest investors in renewable energy are the gas and oil companies. This fact does not reveal some kind heartedness but shows a perpetuation of corporate hawkishness. They go where the money is. I used to think that I would not care if Exxon started to make wind turbines and introduce them into mainstream consciousness. It would be better than nothing, possibly but the company history and its contributions to previous American governments to help fund coups in other countries in order to secure a market elsewhere resulting in the deterioration of the quality of life for the citizens of that nation, is not a company that should be in operation let alone at the top of its field. But in a world run by a corporate agenda, this is only a romantic notion that any such motives would not be in the lead.

This potentiality for a new "green economy" as Obama likes to call it, can be a way to re-systematize the way things are done and run in the world. By allowing the already powerful sustain their power by running the sustainable power industry will shatter our chances at being sustainable. If companies like Exxon and Ford continue to promote and sponsor cut throat (literally!!) corporate operations in conjunction with the government, erasing capitalism and turning it into corporatism (to use a term introduced to me by Naomi Klein) than the world will continue on the same path of the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer and the middle class not giving a damn.

Here is an article on the Volt vs. the Leaf.

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