Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Environmental Predictors and Fast Cars

Auto Hydrocarbon Emissions from 1968 - 2004

The Pacific Research Institute, a free-market think tank, has just published its “2006 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators.” From the press release:

The year 2005 offered a full plate of environmental episodes that riveted the nation’s attention, including sky-high energy prices, expanded talk of permanent oil shortages, Hurricane Katrina, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal, where the U.S. came in for the usual pasting from the international community.

Yet a funny thing happened along the way.

The modern environmental movement died
, at least according to “The Death of Environmentalism,” the dire warning from two enviro insiders Michael Schellenberger and Ted Nordhaus. They argue that environmentalism has failed in its larger aims and should now integrate itself within a broader spectrum of “progressive” causes such as gay marriage, opposition to the war and to the death penalty.

Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times liberal columnist, wrote in a scathing column “that environmental groups are too often alarmists. They have an awful track record, so they’ve lost credibility with the public. . . . I was once an environmental groupie, and I still share the movement’s broad aims, but I’m now skeptical of the movement’s I Have a Nightmare speeches. . . .”

British novelist Ian McEwan wrote in the Los Angeles Times on Earth Day last year:
“The environmental movement has been let down by dire predictions— scientifically based — that over the last two or three decades have proved spectacularly wrong. It is tempting to embrace with enthusiasm the latest bleak scenario because it fits our mood. But we should be asking for the provenance of the data, the assumptions fed into the computer model, the response of the peer review community, and so on. Pessimism is intellectually delicious, even thrilling, but the matter before us is too serious for mere self-pleasuring. It would be self-defeating if the environmental movement degenerated into a religion of gloomy faith.”

The American people have not been persuaded by the environmental radicals: “Gallup’s annual environmental poll finds few signs that environmentalists opposed to President George W. Bush’s environmental agenda have had success persuading the public to see things from their perspective.”

A recent survey by MIT found that environmental issues ranked 13th out of 21 issues by importance, following terrorism, health care, the economy, unemployment, family values, education, the budget deficit, foreign policy, crime, social security, drugs and taxes. And for this 13th ranked issue, global warming ranked only sixth out of 10 environmental issues, below water pollution and toxic waste and just above urban sprawl. Three-quarters of respondents said they expect the U.S. to suffer a biological or nuclear attack within the next 20 years, yet only a third considered global warming to be a significant threat.

Americans, by large majorities, are overwhelmingly optimistic—even if a catastrophe looms.

Still, we Crunchy Cons believe strongly that the environment should be protected. So let’s take a look at a few of the findings in the report.

Air Quality: The number of exceedances of the eight-hour ozone standard in Los Angeles during the last 30 years has dropped significantly, from 201 in 1975 to 75 in 2005. There are large scale areas of the LA air basin where there have been no exceedances of the ozone standard for the last several years, meaning millions of residents have no exposure to high levels of ozone.

Biodiversity: The Catalogue of Life Program, begun in 2001, has passed the half-million mark in the number of species listed in its database. Grizzly bears may be coming off the endangered species list. The largest population in the continental U.S. outside of Alaska lives in and near Yellowstone National Park, where the grizzly population has grown from about 200 in the early 1980s to about 600 today.

Acid Rain: The EPA found significant declines in high acidity in every region except New England, where there was no change from 1990 levels.

Auto Emissions: Automobile tailpipe emissions from carbon monoxide have been reduced by 96 percent since the 1950s. These emissions rates are per mile—not an average for the whole auto fleet. The frequently-heard claim that large SUVs "pollute more" is a myth.

And speaking of autos, big engines stay popular despite gas spike. U.S. consumers bought vehicles with big, gas-guzzling engines at an unchanged rate in the first three months of the year despite rising gas prices. If that trend holds, it would be positive news for General Motors, which has staked its product strategy on a new line of SUVs which run on V8 engines.

Meanwhile, US hybrid sales mostly slack despite gasoline hike. U.S. gas prices have risen nearly a third over the past year without touching off a boom in sales of fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, some of which are sitting on dealer lots for as long as three months. U.S. consumers are concluding that what they save in gasoline and on tax credits from driving a hybrid does not justify the $3,000 premium, even with high and volatile fuel prices. That poses a problem for car makers including Honda, Ford and Toyota that have bet on broadening popularity for hybrids.

Finally, at the high end there are Europe's Supercars. Newer stars of the superfast firmament include the Porsche Carrera GT, the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren and the 660 horsepower, V12 Ferrari Enzo, all of which cost more than $500,000. What's more, 2006 marks what may be an apex in supercar history. That's because the vaunted Bugatti Veyron will be rolling off the assembly line and cranking from zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds making it the fastest car in the world. That’s what 1,001 horses will do for you.

I just love fast cars!


Blogger fetching jen said...

great post Bill.

email me... fetchingjen@hotmail.com so we can talk cars!

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, muscle and specialty cars!

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for pointing all this out. We can all feel good that these improvements in the environment were brought about through regulatory change instigated by us Conservative Republicans with the enthusiastic backing of the auto, oil, forestry, and electricity industries. God bless us.


8:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

..hey Bill,
I know why it's so acidy in New England..Ted Kenndy.


12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bill. I always had you pegged as a Hummer owner rather than a driver of cars from those effete liberal European countries. Still, at least you don't drive a Renault or a Citroen.

However, you might want to check the facts on SUV sales. Most of the big dealers are showing sales down 20-30% in the first quarter. Take a look at some of the dealer lots - the SUV's are piled up. Hardly the kind of trend that's going to keep GM out of Chapter 11. Sadly the Jap guys saw the trend first and own the growing low gas consumption end of the market.

But in the meantime there are great deals to be had. You can get the Hummer of your dreams at a deep discount price. They'll throw in free camouflage paint for use in the desert and a lifetime's supply of "Support our troops" stickers. Your environmental guilt will melt away.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Hummers are too slow for me. Vettes, Vipers, Ferraris,... What environmental guilt???

I hope you support our military too.

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:23 AM  

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