Belmont Club


Gas prices too high in California? No problem: buy a hybrid car. Dan Turner at the LA Times writes:

Walking the dog the other morning, I heard an odd whistle and hum behind me; it was one of my neighbors returning home (I happened to be standing in front of his driveway at the time), driving his new Nissan Leaf electric car.

“How do you like your Leaf?” I asked, while dragging the pooch out of his path.

“Man, I absolutely love it. I haven’t been to a gas station in, like, two months.” …

Unless he’s been reading the news, my neighbor probably has no idea that California is enduring a sudden, surprising and, for other people, very painful spike in gasoline prices, which in some parts of the Southland have crossed the $5-a-gallon mark.

Until the recent gas price spike Dan Turner thought gasoline powered cars might be a better deal. But now he’s changed his mind. “The original version of this post contained a final paragraph saying that gas-powered economy cars were often a better deal than electric cars, but in consideration of the … $7,500 federal tax credit offered for the Leaf and other all-electric vehicles … that conclusion has been deleted.”

Part of the reason why California gas prices are so high is because the Golden State requires a special blend of fuel to meet is environmental requirements. But since electricity is electricity unlike fuel, which if the wrong blend cannot be imported from out of state, voltage can. Hence the rising fuel prices advantage electrics which can use generic electricity unlike California car’s which can’t use generic fuel.

What could go wrong? Well you might run out of electricity. It can happen. In the UK consumers have been warned that “millions of households are at risk of power black-outs within three years because coal stations are being replaced with wind farms”.

In its strongest ever warning, Ofgem said there may have to be “controlled disconnections” of homes and businesses in the middle of this decade because Britain has not done enough to make sure it has enough electricity.

The regulator’s new analysis reveals the risk of power-cuts is almost 50 per cent in 2015 if a very cold winter causes high demand for electricity.

It predicts Britain will face power shortages because old coal and oil plants are being forced to shut down under the European Union’s environmental regulations. This will partly be replaced by wind farms, but they are less reliable and can only generate electricity in the right weather conditions.

Ofgem believes the lack of spare power generation “could lead to higher bills”, which are already at record high of £1,300 per year.

Electric cars are dependent on electricity. Rush Limbaugh dared Washington DC electric vehicle owners during the recent blackout to get out of town but the Green Auto blog points out that gasoline powered vehicles would be similarly immobilized.

We’re not going to mention that gas stations require electricity in order to pump gas… oh, wait, we just did. Rush goes on to attack windmills and solar panels … We’re not going to mention that the D.C.-area storm didn’t single out windmills or solar panels, leaving all other power-generating plants and equipment intact. Um, oops.

Older readers may remember when electric pumps at antedeluvian gasoline stations were equipped with a socket for a crank on the side which enabled the attendant — or anyone — to draw the fuel up manually for the reservoir in the event of a power failure. Apparently they don’t have those things much any more.

Should West Virginia’s 1,392 gas retailers be required to have a standby power source in the event of another long-term power outage? …

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va, expressed concern.

“I would hope some of our area learned the necessity of having backup generators, especially gas stations,” the Third District congressman said.

“That’s been a surprise to me, the number of gas stations that have not had backup generators, therefore unable to pump gas. Some had generators, but they didn’t do any good.”

So buy generators. But the Green Auto blog might object that you can’t fuel the backup generators either unless you can get the gas from the service station in the first place.

Glenn Reynolds points out that America is more vulnerable to disruption in some respects than India. Why? Because it is so dependent on the grid.

Modern civilization is astoundingly dependent on electricity. If the power goes out for very long, pretty much everything stops: water (you need pumps), gasoline (most gas stations don’t have backup generators to pump the gas), traffic (no stoplights), sewage (pumps again), and, eventually, even things like natural gas supplies (more pumps) and cellphone service (cell towers usually have backup power, but for most it’s only short-term). Stop the electricity for a day and it’s inconvenient; stop it for a few days and people die; stop it for a week or more over a big area and civilization itself is in peril. …

Where do people get food if the grocery stores don’t have power? For outages of a few days, this is a nuisance; for longer ones, it becomes a serious problem.

How many post-apocalyptic movies have you seen where the heroes escape from zombies in an electric car? But nobody ever explained how the folks in those Mad Max movies filled up without without electricity to run the pump.  So buy a Chevy Volt. They don’t need gas.

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