The Paradox of Conservation

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Last seen: 11 years 7 months ago
Joined: Thursday, May 27, 2010 - 16:20
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The Paradox of Conservation

And this brings us to the unique paradox of the human condition: That man wants to persevere as does any animal or primitive organism; he is driven to the same craving to consume. . .to enjoy continued experience.
-Ernest Becker 'Escape from Evil'

Sorry, such a post modernist as myself can't help but fall under the influence of Becker and his 'Paradoxes.' There's been so many high horse threads around here lately that I just had to bring in a champion cow tipper.

I think this quotation gives us the basis to discuss the energy addiction: Not just in the U.S., the world's biggest consumer of oil is China, afterall. But since the theme here is electric vehicles, we can stick to the subject of 'Car Guys' not wanting to give up their performance cars. Keep in mind I'm one hell of a car guy.

Chris Martenson, of 'Crash Course' fame, refers to the first 3/4ths of the 20th Century as a time of an "Overabundance of energy." I'm picturing the Germans and the Japanese around World War II as disagreeing with that, as they never had enough. But then they would have to have more than they really needed to waste so much on their silly war, they just didn't have as much extra as the Allies did.

So after the 'Greatest Generation' was done enduring the Axis Powers having the other guys' idea of a good time, they got to come home and have their own while making extensive use of that "Overabundance." Many became car guys and built hotrods. The old wreck of choice: The Ford Model 18, (1932-35) the first production V8, hence the car model being a number instead of a letter. It was dubbed with another number when it was also called 'The Deuce,' as it was the first secondary model Ford every marketed, the blue oval having previously only built variants on a single model. If you couldn't find a deuce, there were plenty of other interesting old cars at the time, if you were handy your final cost could be under $200 and you'd still beat everyone else in town. You could even get a P-51 fuel tank and build a car out of that. Dry lakes and riverbeds would never be the same.

Gas might have only been a dime, but it was a dime when a dime was worth more. Energy was not so much cheaper as you think. As rising energy costs drove up the cost of production and delivery, the price of everything rose to keep pace. If you compare prices and the value of the dollar, we're not really paying much more for gas these days.

But the price of the car guys toys have risen dramatically. In uncorrected numbers the price of gas has only risen some 33 times, while the price of building that car may have gone up 100 times, 200 times, etc. No matter how expensive it becomes, the car guys stay with it. $5/gallon gas doesn't shake them up, so I'm writing this because I think you really didn't know that.

So never mind the whining about where you THINK the world is going, what you THINK everyone should be doing, there's way too many people who don't believe you. The world was told that peak oil was starting in 1973, then in 1979, etc. There's been too much crying wolf to be believed. You're not scary anymore. Hell, when I say we MIGHT be into peak oil and some jackass starts frothing at the mouth because I DIDN'T say we definitely are, I tell him in no uncertain terms he WILL shutup. Darn, he goes home wearing a dunce cap, disappointed that nobody is afraid of him.

It's hard to convince people to use gas with alcohol or variants of nitro in it to save gas even as their type has been known to try that for performance. They don't want to give up the experience, as Becker is trying to warn you. (Electric cars haven't made their way into the experience as yet.) They idea of saving the gas for later has been reduced close to meaningless because of all the times they've been told the sky is falling without any of the blue patches (Or brown, in California) actually landing in their yard. If they don't give up their cars and (What do you know?) we really do run out of things to run it on, at least they have the memories. But if they give them up because someday we'll run out only to see someday never come, it's going to kill them what they missed. Especially when they're watching so many of the high horse crowd continue to run amok.

Becker goes on about any human being having a long line of organisms they kill in one lifetime, just to survive. (That's right, you vegans, many many creatures die because of you. Deal with it.) There is simply no place for the high horse. Consumption is an inevitable part of living, anyone who can't reconcile that has no place in a discussion on it.

So what is the best way to put it? There are people who aren't in nearly so strong a position to be the arbiter as they want to believe they are. Becker has a paradox for that one, too.

Persons have to keep from going mad by biting off small pieces of reality which they can get some command over and some satisfaction from. This means that their noblest passions are played out in the narrowest and most unreflective ways, and this is what undoes them. From this point of view the main problem for human beings has to be expressed in the following paradox. . . .
-Ernest Becker 'Escape from Evil'

jdh2550_1's picture
Last seen: 9 years 10 months ago
Joined: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - 09:35
Points: 2335
Re: The Paradox of Conservation

I'm not sure I really understand all the finer points of this but thanks for a well written and thought provoking piece. And for the time to make it look pretty too.

I'm a firm believer that EV's will replace the majority of ICE vehicles. Maybe in the next 30 to 50 years? Not because the world will wake up and say "oh, heck, they were right I better go hug a tree". Nor because the oil will run out. But because EV's simply ARE better for the vast majority of use cases that we use transportation for. Cost is the major inhibition these days - and always will be. Look at the fundamentals and an EV should be costing less than ICE not more. Ultimately they will - not in the short term though.

Yes, folks like to consume and to experience. But that doesn't mean they all like to consume gas. For every 1 hot-rodder or car-guy there's 1,000 (or 10,000 or 100,000) folks that just want to get from A to B (but want to consume vast amounts of something else to satisfy their passions).

One of the biggest roadblocks to clear away is Madison Avenue (the marketing industry). They spend a whole lot of time figuring out how to make speed and power of vehicles attractive marketing attributes. They also spend a lot of time figuring out how to make "size" = "safety".

I totally agree with you that car-guys will always be car-guys. We (note the inclusive term) will always want more power and more speed and preferably a garage full of both EV's and ICEV's.

However, just because the "high horse" crowd may be arguing the wrong argument what they want to achieve (more EV's) will happen...

Heck, I hope so - I'm trying to sell everyone some!

John H. Founder of Current Motor Company - opinions on this site belong to me; not to my employer
Remember: " 'lectric for local. diesel for distance" - JTH, Amp Bros || "No Gas.

Last seen: 11 years 7 months ago
Joined: Thursday, May 27, 2010 - 16:20
Points: 220
Re: The Paradox of Conservation

Well there, you see? You went looking for finer points and got lost.

Not sure how many are still on the shelves today, but for a month there the car magazines all had covers about saving the performance car, hot button topic at the moment. Reading the proposed laws I can just never get over how there's people who think they can legislate the kind of world they want to live in.

A scooter of late has been the only truly effective electric vehicle on the market. (Volt and Leaf are just arriving.) You live a few miles away, you can ride. Those few miles get to adding up. The riders in my family think real motorcycles start at 750cc; there's no electric to rival that at the moment. It's just a tough climb. There's still a ways to go to please everyone.

The reason I don't think the ICE will die is because the development curve could take it over 100mpg soon. The Model T had a 2.9 liter engine that generated 20hp at under 10 miles to the gallon. The current Chevy Aveo has an engine just over half that size, generates over 5 times the horsepower while getting more than 3 times the gas mileage. Not long ago people wouldn't have admitted to dreaming of a 5.7 liter Corvette getting nearly 30 mpg on the freeway. So the next step in the process should be interesting.

WHo dares, WINS!!!!

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