Friday, May 12, 2006

Driving Green

We are replacing one of our cars this fall. It all started with the idea that, since we're going to Germany we might as well do the European delivery thing and pick up a new BMW while we're there. That way we can avoid having to rent a car, and I'd get a sweet new set of wheels in the process.
Then I started to think more about the Prius that we had hoped to get 2 years ago when my wife's car suddenly died. Unfortunately at the time we needed a car pronto, so waiting for a Prius was simply not an option. We've been very happy with her Mazda 6 sport wagon, which is an awesome car, versatile, does everything we need for our family. Still, I've had the desire to drive a much more environmentally friendly vehicle ever since and thought that I could do this when we replaced my car.

The Biodiesel Promise
At first I thought that I had stumbled on a perfect solution - a diesel 3 series BMW wagon, fueled by biodiesel. Unfortunately it did not take too long to establish that, as of 2006, no new diesel passenger cars are being sold in the US! VW used to sell the Jetta and Golf TDI, but have stopped as of this year. Unfortunately for the environment and consumers who would like the choice, the diesel regulations in the US are far behind those of the EU. Whereas most of the BMWs, Mercedes, Audis, and VWs sold in Germany are diesel, here in the US we have yet to come up with smarter pollution controls allowing for improved diesel fuel and the more efficient engines that can use it.
I agree wholeheartedly with Senator Obama that Energy Security is one of our most crucial issues. I used to think that Healthcare was more important and just as broken, but now I feel that I may have been biased by my personal involvement as a physician. I tend to think of our Energy Security now more akin to the issue of Slavery in the lead up to the US Civil War.

The Elephant in the Room
There is much blathering these days about the price of oil, energy company price gouging, pain at the pump, etc. But the real issue is that our dependence on oil makes us far more vulnerable than leaky borders, inadequate port security, or bioterror agents. Though I also tend to agree with Ray Kurzweil on issues of technology, and I also agree with the Kurzweil and Joy editorial calling for a huge investment in countering biotechnology, I disagree that it is our most crucial need at the moment. What we need most right now is the national will to enable us to become energy self-sufficient. There are numerous obstacles in place, just as there were with the abolition of Slavery. The economic drivers for an oil-based economy are certainly responsible for much of the political pressure that has kept us from innovating new energy sources, just as a slave-based economy was also a key political driver.
What we really need is an Abe Lincoln who will lead the country away from oil dependence and into a secure future of energy self-sufficiency.

New Wheels
So despite my feelings above, I'm really looking forward to my new set of wheels. I am getting over my disappointment at not being able to have my cake and eat it too. It would have been boss to have a diesel BMW that I could fill up with biodiesel. Alas, not this year. Hopefully our next car will be much greener. And in the meantime, I plan on putting as few miles on my new car and as many miles on my bike as possible. Right now my commute to work is 14 miles each way, which makes for a great 40-min workout in the mornings, plus it is zero emissions!


  • I don't feel a lot of guilt. Generally in life I recognize that even if I have made mistakes, that I have almost always tried to make the right decision at the time of the decision, and that there isn't a lot of room to feel bad about the past.

    One of the few pangs of guilt I've felt recently has been that I didn't get a more enviromentally friendly car this last time. I love the car I got, it's not proving to be the most reliable car, but the physcial configuration is fabulous and it's incredibly useful. But I notice that it is obviously going through gas a *lot* faster than my last sedan, and I am actually feeling bad about that.

    By Blogger matt dick, at 5/16/2006 6:53 AM  

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