I’ve been amused and befuddled lately by people, usually “experts” who appear to downright lie, don’t tell the whole truth, or simply don’t know (and its corollary, ‘make it up’). Yes, I know, it’s my pet peeve again.
Let’s start from the top. It’s a strange list but bear with me.
Climate change. It’s not proven “fact” and in fact almost impossible to prove that human activity is to blame. That does not make it irrelevant, however. The world is warming and ice is melting earlier in the spring than ever before. Our climate is changing and it may well accelerate from here, or it may not. It’s a guessing game but one with consequences. So do you go around debunking climate change, or join in – just in case? I’m a joiner, both because it’s a reasonable bet that any action we take may help to arrest the warming, and also that what we are doing to arrest climate change is a good thing anyway. Why go on and on wasting resources like oil and gas? Why not save some for later? Why risk the planet on just the hope that emitting mega-tonnes of Carbon dioxide doesn’t matter?
The Golf GT 1.4 and its turbo supercharged engine. Hey I told you it’s a weird list. I keep reading gushing reviews that run from ‘why didn’t someone think of this before’ to ‘what a fantastic idea that’s never before been possible‘. Well like most things carmakers do its (a) been done before by another car maker – ie Lancia (with the Delta Integrale) and (b) been done even further back in time by an aircraft manufacturer (or engine manufacturer to be more precise – Wright and its turbo-supercharged direct injected 1944 Cyclone amongst many others – just search on 1940s and 50s airplane engine technology to see how slack auto engineering really is!).
Hybrid car engines. Same as above except think train (locomotive) manufacturers. Ever wondered who invented regenerative braking before Toyota used it on the Prius et al? Well trams (streetcars, if you prefer) had that feature many decades ago. Diesel engined locos making electricity to drive wheels, ditto. It may be refined and put in a car context but let’s not pretend it’s new.
Hybrids are more efficient. More efficent than what? Than a car of the same carrying capacity? Big deal. Why not avoid the complexity and just buy a smaller car – or drive less? So the Prius and its ilk save some petrol in comparison to other oversized tanks… but what exactly is the environmental cost of making a complex petrol/electric hybrid car vs a simpler, smaller-engined petrol-only car? We never see that comparison, do we? Cars are developed, made, transported, shipped, serviced… all of this takes energy before you even move the thing under its own “steam”. What are the real costs of developing and making petrol/electric hybrids? What would an independent whole-of-life assessment of energy use reveal?
Everyone should have solar panels because it’s cheaper and greener. Cheaper and greener than what? Building a central generator and containing the pollution and resource use in one spot, to be managed in that one location? Versus dispersing the pollution and effort around hundreds of manufacturers and millions of sites? Have you actually done the sums? If everyone invested in solar panels that’d be a huge number of solar panels made, supported by mining of course, transported to millions of sites (probably using diesel and petrol to get there) , hooked up by metres of copper wiring in each house, installed by thousands of technicians… are you sure that capturing maybe 35% of the power of the sun is actually more efficient than all other forms of power generation, when we never actually see the calculations, just the assertions?
And so on. I feel better now.