Tuesday, October 17, 2006

UCLA Grad-Student loves his/her biodiesel - hates everything else

That is one pissed-off grad student! (A diarist on the DailyKos) Who is very pleased with him/herself for converting an old diesel to a biodiesel..I'd be more impressed if they'd sold their gas guzzler for a bike- in L.A., that'd mean something.

This is all well and good- but I'm more inclined to paint more solid white stripes on the streets and highways for bikes. I truly believe that the answer isn't better cars, but a change in the way we all live*...and the only way is let the gas run out, let the internal combustion engine die...now. For the simple fact that the biomass required to make this biofuel revolution happen will screw the world up in a different but similar way. This diarist shames the oil companies for their antiquated paradigm- but this grad student isn't challenging the real paradigm- that we must own a car- that this partnership is necessary -evil or otherwise. Interesting to think about- if we don't change our ways in the next 35 to 50 years and the gas runs out (as stated by the gradstudent), our energy revolution will happen anyway...if the destruction of the ice pack and the environment is already underway we'll have our revolution alright - punkrock style.
Quoting from an article that appeared in the Washington post by Lester R. Brown - Sunday, September 10, 2006

Starving the People To Feed the Cars

In agricultural terms, our appetite for automotive fuel is insatiable: The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol would feed one person for a full year. If the United States converted its entire grain harvest into ethanol, it would satisfy less than 16 percent of its automotive fuel needs.
The crux of the article is somewhat different than the pull quote, but the message is there. Take all the arable land in the US and start making ethanol for cars and we'd only cover 16% of the current need (I know ethanol is different than biodiesel, and I don't pretend to know their comparative merits, but I think its an applicable quote nonetheless).

Don't get me wrong- I own a car, my family owns two. I spent two years (prior to moving to Portland) commuting at least two hours a day round trip in my car (car pooling). I know public transit and bikes doesn't always work. But then I made a choice that living meant being out of the car. Working and living should happen closer together in space, etc. etc. Here I am, I don't commute, I can't remember the last time I put gas in my Civic...

I guess, in light of the current population expansion in Oregon, and Portland in particular, the real question for me is what will it take for more people to make the switch to public transit or human powered transit? What is the critical mix that will make it happen? Obvious problems are many- but given what we have, how could these alternatives be more attractive?

*which brings up an interesting pro Pearl development argument for all those who speak of it with derision - they are living the closest of any of us to many of the downtown jobs.

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