Posts Tagged ‘gas’


Pickens proves yellow, not green

November 14, 2008

I was frustrated to see T Boone Pickens run away from his wind turbines.  It looks like he’s only in favor of green power if there is very short term profit.  He said that he was suspending the project because natural gas prices are low.

This is exactly the type of short term thinking that drives Wall Street greed that over turned our economy.  I thought that Pickens was actually trying to leave a legacy, not just an inheritance.


What would it take to eliminate imported oil?

November 8, 2008

I was talking with my neighbor about potential increases in gas tax and her initial reaction was a strong “oh no!  That would be horrible for the economy.”  I pointed out that we’re importing 70% of our oil (ref: T. Boone Pickens & Hot, Flat & Crowded) and that means huge amounts of our currency is leaving the US and going to hostile countries.  I was impressed with how much that single point resonated with her.  Just that one item and her attitude completely changed into maybe gas taxes that discouraged use and kept $$ in the US would be a good thing for the economy.

So I started thinking about what life with 80% less* gas would look like for typical American consumers.  We would have to:

  • Work from home 4 days a week (1 vs 5 = 80% saved)
  • Carpool with 4 other people (1 vs 5 = 80% saved)
  • Go shopping twice a month instead of twice a week (2 vs 8 = 75% saved)
  • Car pool 5 kids per car to soccer games / scout trips / etc (3 cars instead of 15 = 66% saved)
  • Kids ride the school bus (fuzzier math, 1 bus = 30 cars but 20% efficient is 1/30/20% = 1/6 = 83% saved)
  • Bike or walk to coffee shop
  • Combine 10 shopping trips into a single trip
  • Drive or train for vacation instead of fly
  • Take a train instead of fly for next business trip
  • Use public transit to attend sports events

So of these changes could be made pretty easy if we slowed down our lifestyle, but telecommuting 80% would be a major change!  One benefit, less traffic!

* I picked 80% gas because some users cannot reduce this radically (like farming) so everyone else has to make up the difference!  80% or a 1/5 is also handy for math.


Introducing the GI Fill

August 6, 2008

I saw the intriguing movie Kabluey at the Dobie on UT campus last night.  Since campus as breft of students, I was surprised to see the Army recruiting office bristling with soldiers in camouflage.  I’ve heard that volunteers are reluctant to defend our right to Middle East crude and am I suggested a new inventive plan – the “GI Fill.”

Instead of paying to educate returning soldiers under the old-school GI Bill, my GI Fill offers fuel purchasing assistance to veterans and their families.  I believe that they have earned the right to get extra of the substance that they’ve risked their lives to protect.  In addition, it would create Detroit saving demand for SUVs.

Fighting to defend our right to Fill Up

Fighting to defend our right to Fill Up

Now that’s effective recruiting!  If you’re interesting in the pre-photoshop poster.


MPG estimates are NOT linear: please replace your SUV now

June 20, 2008

NPR did an interesting report about bad MPG analysis based on research from a Duke Professor (my alma mater) . The crux of the report is that small MPG improvements (e.g. +5 MPG) at the bottom have a much bigger impact on actual fuel used ($$$) than the same improvement at the top. So replacing a 30 MPG car with a 35 MPG car is a much smaller real consumption difference than replacing a 15 MPG one for 20 MPG.

This is not surprising. If fact, it’s painfully obvious if you present the data as a percentage (33% vs 17%) but we’ve gotten so used to looking at the just the MPG #s.

So, take everything back to $ for your estimations and you’ll be fine. That same analysis may point you away from a hybrid into a small ICE. But now we’re assuming that you can make a logic based decision about buying a car. Most of the research out there says that car buying is a emotional decision for most of us.

Note: cross posted to


Energy Free Rides

May 6, 2008

On Cinco de Mayo, I was talking to an environmentally minded friend over lunch at Maudi’s and chewing on weighty problems. He suggested that the Free Rider Problem from Game Theory may be part of the struggle for conservation movements to get rolling. The FRP states that when a populate is large enough members can easily opt out of paying their share. By assuming that the majority will contribute they get a free ride. If enough people do this then the market collapses or fails to advance.

This certainly explains some of the behavior that prevents emergent conservation, but I think there is also an overwhelming boil the ocean phenomena at play. It’s currently impossible for individuals to see any practical connection between their drop of wastefulness and a world wide problem.

I believe that it is possible to make this a personal connection if we can:

  1. put the use into personal terms like gallons of gas or hours of TV
  2. allow people to see a measurable (10%?) improvement from conservation
  3. connect them into small enough groups that we overcome the Free Rider problem

There are many instances in which the national zeitgeist shifts from ignoring widespread intractable problems into addressing them aggressively as enforced social norms. For example, littering in the 70s, polyester in the 80s, smoking in the 90s, and recycling in the 00s.

The tide is turning, but it’s still too hard for people to measure the benefit.