Re: Public Declaration Of Suckitude

1

Isn't it basically the case that there's nothing a typical individual can do that will make any difference to global warming? </absolution>


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 9:58 AM
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Trains are hella sexy.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:06 AM
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You know, offsets really aren't all that expensive. Some are better than others and it's worth reading up on them: http://www.cleanair-coolplanet.org/ConsumersGuidetoCarbonOffsets.pdf


Posted by: Craig | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:10 AM
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If I were you I'd take a train, at least NYDC. But I hate airports and love trains and don't mind the extra time as long as I have a book or a laptop.

Your other alternative is to become a Republican, in which case it'd simply be a matter of course that you're polluting the hell out of the atmosphere.


Posted by: DaveB | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:11 AM
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How inconvenient is the train? I have to go to DC for business occasionally, and if the schedule works out properly, and you give it credit for the downtown-to-downtown and no security hassles bit, it's only slightly slower.

(I don't mean to give you a hard time about it, I'm just wondering why the dismissal.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:12 AM
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Why I won't take the train:

1. Even when I travel, I need to be in the office between 9 and 9:30 AM on Monday morning.
2. I prefer to leave Monday morning, rather than Sunday night, so I can get a full weekend at home.
3. Acela would go over the travel budget for which I can get reimbursed by my company. I'd need to take regional service.
4. The latest regional train that could get me to the office by 9:30 leaves DC at 5:25 AM.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:18 AM
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wow, I *really* suck. But the alternatives are quitting my job & never seeing my family. (Or moving, but that's not my call).


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:19 AM
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Ah. (3), and the resulting scheduling, covers it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:21 AM
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Acela would go over the travel budget for which I can get reimbursed by my company.

And airfare doesn't? Weird.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:23 AM
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Amtrak is maddeningly expensive. We need a carbon tax.


Posted by: DaveB | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:32 AM
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11

Roundtrip flight: $160
Roundtrip Acela: $330
Roundtrip regional train: $201


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:40 AM
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These guys are going straight to hell... on an airplane!


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:43 AM
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Bloody hell, Becks! Those are terrible figures. I knew the Acela service was expensive, but I suppose I thought they were just ripping off the tourists. Don't they do season tickets or something? I quite see that the regional train scheduling is just impossible.

How long does it take you to get to and from the airports at either end, by the way? In this country, and perhaps in Yurp generally, the discomfort, inconvenience, and expense of getting to and from the airport pretty much cancels out the benefits of flight.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:46 AM
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The case for a carbon tax- price of driving would go up, planes would go up a lot, trains wouldn't go up as much, people might start taking the train (or companies might make the train system less crappy if there were more demand.)


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:46 AM
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Acela is ridiculously expensive. I'm in Philadelphia where it makes lots of sense to train to either NYC or DC. When I'm on my own, that's what I do, but lawyers sometimes travel in packs. Our firm recently figured out that if two people are going for a few hours, or three are going for a full day, limousine service is cheaper than Acela.


Posted by: an irregular | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:56 AM
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[Insert stock snarl at people who post as 'lurker' or 'irregular'. What if you wanted to say something else next week? Pick a name. Or don't, there's no real reason you should listen to me.]


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 10:58 AM
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"an irregular" has been using that name for a while, LB.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:00 AM
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I mean, really, the Acela thing is shocking. A friend of mine commutes at weekends down from Edinburgh to London, a distance of about 450 miles, and she can get, if she's canny, first class returns for about £70.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:02 AM
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Otoh, I have been charged -- or my employers have -- £200 for a day trip to Manchester from London. by train.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:03 AM
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But I don't know that, because I'm braindamaged enough to look at something like 'an irregular' and not be able to store it as a proper name rather than a one-off self-description. Which is why I snarl. 'An irregular' might have commented twenty times over the last two months and I'd have no idea -- someone with a name comments once or twice a year and that I can remember.

This whole blog is set up to cater to my personal deficiencies, right?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:04 AM
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11 gets it exactly. I'm absolutely certain that the fact that air prices are lower than trains (and often lower than driving, especially if you factor in hotel costs) is completely unsustainable simply in a dollars-and-cents kind of way.

To add to your flying guilt, my understanding is that since airplanes can't land while carrying a lot of fuel (explosion hazard, you know), they often dump excess fuel in flight.

I honestly think that the only long term solutions are (1) for us to somehow stop believing that success includes going "away" to college and even more "away" for one's career and (2) more telecommuting, especially for jobs like Becks's.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:04 AM
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At this point I'm pretty well convinced that carbon offsets are too likely to be good money after bad to be worth pursuing. Better to give your money to an advocacy organization, I'd think.

I take the chinatown bus to Philadelphia and back on a very regular basis. It'd be awfully nice if the train was affordable — the cramped legroom on the bus isn't doing anything for my knees, and the novelty of the range of smells on offer has started to wear off — but it's just too expensive to make sense. Also, my enthusiasm for the train dimmed a lot when I realized that Amtrak makes riders queue up in a system patterned on airport gates, which is pretty horrible.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:05 AM
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Maybe he should be "an irregular joe."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:05 AM
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That I could manage. "Juicy Lurker" is fine with me, for example.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:06 AM
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What LB is saying here is that "an irregular" should change his name to "DaveB".

Also I agree with 21. I am going to strongly resist moving more than 8 hours' drive away from my parents . I don't think I would have felt that way 20 years ago.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:07 AM
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Deliberately racking up as many segments as possible to get (very occasional) free flights? Those people have a deep-seated masochism of a magnitude I have't even seen in aficionados of edgeplay.

And even at a cost of $0.02 per frequent flier mile, a free flight to Europe, Australia or east Asia would cost about $2,000 in unnecessary, shitty, paid-for flying. You can just buy tickets in the low season for that.

Those calculators make me feel pretty bad about the flight miles that my family racks up, but they seem to be sorely overestimating my power generation carbon emissions.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:08 AM
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It's hard to comment on this thread because Becks is so great, but one thing one might do is rearrange the life so as to avoid that commute.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:10 AM
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As I understand it, there are very strong economic reasons for the commute -- avoiding it would impose a significant financial cost.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:18 AM
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Craigslist! There have got to be other people making that commute often enough that one could at least share rides or something.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:22 AM
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Drive it? Before work on a Monday morning? Hitting rush hour traffic every blessed mile of the way from DC to NY?

Californians.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:23 AM
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26- Supposedly there are bonuses and such (double miles if you're a platinum member,) but that might already be factored into the cost of the $0.02/mile.
The problem is that the airlines actually make you take these flights to get the miles. If you could just buy the tickets and not go, or send a hamster in your place, it might occasionally get you a cheaper ticket than retail.
The only real deals are the "fat-finger" ones, where there's a typo in the ad that the airline honors ($1.79 round trip instead of $179.)


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:24 AM
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30: I thought the thing that made you guys different was that you all took the train. Therefore, the roads should be clear as mountain streams.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:36 AM
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33

[raised middle finger to Cryptic Ned]


Posted by: DaveB | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:59 AM
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Lizardbreath has defeated me.

--the irregular formerly known as "an irregular"


Posted by: guywhocantthinkofawittycybernym | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 12:00 PM
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Heh. Quail before my crochetyness, worms!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 12:03 PM
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36

The Salon article claims otherwise but according to this spreadsheet (Em factors) taking the train would not be better.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 12:32 PM
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That seems unlikely to the point of it not seeming worthwhile to look up the sources for the data to figure out where the error is.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 12:38 PM
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21: Or, you know, trains.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 12:39 PM
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36: Looks like the train figure is in miles, while the plane factors are in km. Multiply by 0.62 and the train comes out slightly ahead -- still seems ridiculously high to me, though. I wonder to what extent those "CO2 factors" account for the overhead of unutilized seats. I would expect a full train to be many times more efficient than a full jet.

Makes me wonder how faster trains compare, too.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 12:39 PM
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Ha, "DaveB" was actually a typo. I meant to type "DaveV", since there is not one of those.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 12:40 PM
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"For a long trip, like a transatlantic flight on an average-size plane, each passenger is responsible for sending .39 pounds of CO2 per mile into the atmosphere...

It may be a short flight from Houston to Dallas, but shorter flights have a larger impact per mile... Regional flights... [emit] .63 pounds per [passenger] mile."

To get a comparison for the .39 & .63 lb/mile numbers, gasoline generates 19.5 lb CO2/gallon, so a car with 20 MPG generates .98 lb/mi. A car with 30 mpg generates .65 lb/mi, 40 mpg generates .49, and 50 mpg generates .39 lb/mi. By the numbers from the article, taking an intercontinental plane is like driving a car that gets 50 mpg, while a regional plane is like driving a car that gets 30 mpg.

I think this assumes a nearly full plane, and of course this assumes an otherwise empty car. Anyway. Woo context!


Posted by: Alex F | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 12:41 PM
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37: If you want commenters to respect your idiosyncracies, LB, then you should respect ours. Specifically mine. Dammit.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 12:41 PM
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Imagine how much more efficient and attractive the passenger rail system would be if the policy weren't to try to starve it to death. Even Republican senators such as Hutchison and Snowe recognize that. Private rail interests want very much to carve it up and privatize it, and if they succeed, I suspect we'll suddenly learn that, hey, train travel is better.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 12:49 PM
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42: Unless you're threatening to change your pseud to JeanR, no dice.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 12:50 PM
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45

Whatever it takes, dude.


Posted by: JeanR | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 12:58 PM
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41: One of the main problems with planes is that they are pretty close to optimal for what they are, already. Cars aren't close. As you note, flying in a plane for a long trip may be similar in impact (for the same 100's to 1000's of miles, note. It takes a lot of average commutes to add up to one international round-trip) to driving an empty car that gets 50mpg.

But we have cars today that get around 50mpg, and they aren't very good. It's very conceivable to double that number. It's also conceivable to increase the average occupants (fewer single passenger trips) or at least double the mileage again in a vehicle designed more for single-passenger. Those latter may be a bit far fetched. Reducing the average mileage per year could do quite a bit too.

As I understand it, though, there really isn't any significant improvement on the horizon for planes.


Posted by: soubzriquet | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 12:58 PM
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we have cars today that get around 50mpg, and they aren't very good

?? They're fine. They're nicer than any car I've ever driven.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:02 PM
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48

47: they aren't very good in terms of finding the optimal fuel efficiency for that mode of transportation.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:04 PM
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49

Quail before my cro[t]chetyness, worms!

LB, I think you're being kind of tacky.


Posted by: JeanR | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:05 PM
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50

Can I help it if I find gamebirds (and, I suppose, annelids) sexually appealing?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:06 PM
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If we had replaced cars with hovercars as I suggested in my Women's Wear Daily article of 1961, they would have long since reached the limit of energy-efficiency.


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:07 PM
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52

Possibly not, but you really should learn to control those feelings.


Posted by: JeanR | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:07 PM
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47: 48 was right, sorry I worded badly. I don't mean they are bad cars at all (anything but) but they are not very fuel efficient compared to what we could produce today. Planes, on the other hand, are pretty much exactly as fuel efficient as we could could produce today.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:09 PM
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53 wuzme


Posted by: soubzriquet | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:09 PM
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there really isn't any significant improvement on the horizon for planes.

Boeing's recently unveiled 787 is estimated to use 20 percent less fuel per mile than planes in its class, thanks to efficient engine design and carbon-fiber construction.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:12 PM
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I'll just go ahead and say what everyone else is dancing around: we need government-mandated zeppelins.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:12 PM
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57

Caution: Pedantic nitpicking ahead.

[airplanes] often dump excess fuel in flight

Only in an emergency, e.g. when an aircraft has to return to the runway it took off from. A double-aisle aircraft might be carrying $100,000 worth of fuel. No way will they dump that if it can be avoided. Flight planning calculates how much they need to destination, plus a reserve.

there really isn't any significant improvement on the horizon for planes

Fortunately not true. Successive generations of aircraft engines have dramatically improved fuel efficiency, even on old airframes. New airframe designs make further strides by substituting composite materials for metal. The just-launched Boeing 787 is said to burn 20% less fuel per available passenger mile than competing aircraft.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:15 PM
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Haven't you people ever had sex on a train? Best. Public. Transit. Ever.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:16 PM
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59

Gravely pwned by 55


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:16 PM
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57: Glad to be corrected! So presumably the way it works is that they load up with precisely as much fuel as they're going to need, no?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:19 PM
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JESUS-PWNED.

But you did make additional points, so praise you.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:19 PM
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55/57: No, that's exactly what I mean.

20% isn't very impressive given the effort involved Talking to aviation engineers about this, they tell me we don't really know any new tricks. The composite stuff and current engine design has been known for ages now, it's the problem of productizing it that boeing has been fighting with. So the best they could do by throwing tons of money at it is 20% on a plane that is too big to be used in lots of markets. This is a sign that we nearly doing the best we know how to.

By comparison, we can trivially up average american car by 100%, and by working hard ( but not as hard as boeing has) get another 100% for starters.

Anyway, I wasn't saying that we can't improve planes (we can). What I was saying is that the average plane off the production line today is pretty close to as good as we know how to do. The average car isn't anywhere near what we've already done, let alone know how to do.


Posted by: soubzriquet | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:22 PM
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60: Right, with an extra reserve for contingencies like delay or headwinds. They don't always get it right, though.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:24 PM
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63: So do they dump the reserve or not? Also, (presumably?) this is different for military plans?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:27 PM
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64: My understanding was that a fuel dump is only needed in certain emergency landing procedures. IOW, if it's likely to be a crash, dump as much as you can. Which makes sense. I'm no pilot though.


Posted by: soubzriquet | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:29 PM
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No, they don't dump the reserve. Unless they have to land immediately after takeoff or they are afraid they are going to crash. The same applies to military planes, but the military uses weird accounting that ends up not being quite right and making things less fuel-efficient than they might otherwise be.

For instance, a few years back Boeing came up with a plan to re-engine the B-52 with modern turbofans that would dramatically cut fuel usage. The Air Force decided not to do it because they didn't predict large enough savings to be worthwhile, as oil was expected to continue costing $20 a barrel for the foreseeable future. Whups.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:32 PM
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64: Ordinarily no. A fully laden aircraft may be too heavy to land, but the tank doesn't have to be on empty, either. In fact, airlines will sometimes deliberately tank up more than they need at one location to profit from fuel price arbitrage (though it takes a pretty large price differential to outweigh the cost of taking off with excess fuel; such a differential may exist, for example, between Miami and a Caribbean island)


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:33 PM
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62: Fair enough, soubz. It seems that the 20 percent should become a bigger deal as the 787 becomes a bigger part of the fleet, and especially when the advances in its design are translated to smaller aircraft, but I'm speaking ex recto.

Totally agreed about cars. I remember the early VW Rabbits advertised as getting in the 40s in MPG; granted, they were tin cans, and advances in safety have generally made for heavier vehicles. But that was in the 70s, for god's sake. The new Beetle gets the same mileage as my old '73 Beetle, and meanwhile GM pays untold sums to produce junk science attacking the Prius. The industry's reluctance to achieve what fuel efficiency it could is seriously, seriously fucked up.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:41 PM
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Yeah, I'm still amazed whenever I read that average fuel economy is less than 30mpg. I don't think I've *ever* owned a car that got less than 30mpg. (The current one, I admit, probably gets about 27/28, but it was a hand-me-down with an automatic transmission and it's got well over 200,000 miles on it, so I'm not feeling too personally guilty about that.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:43 PM
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58: until it pulls into a station and you have left the curtain in the sleeper compartment up, which happened to me once on a sleeper up to Inverness.

I don't know if these plane/car/train carbon calculations take into account the fact that CO2 dumped at high altitude is about three times as greenhousey as CO2 dumped at ground level. That is important.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:49 PM
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The amazing thing about B-52s is how many times every one of them now flying has been rebuilt and upgraded. The last new one, an H, left the production line in 1962 Some individual planes in the C-135 family are almost as old and much-rebuilt, particularly the heavily-modified ones, but that at least was in production longer. The Victory was 40 years old at Trafalgar in 1805, much rebuilt during that time. That our planes would have careers like that could never have been anticipated.

I get 45mpg in my '88 Honda Civic 4 door sedan now, without shutting off at stoplights, even though it's got the big "B" engine with vtec and 4 valves per. Long-known tricks would make conventional cars twice as fuel efficient if applied all at once, as soub has implied. The trade-offs haven't been worth it, apparently; with $6 gas, they would be.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 1:52 PM
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That is pretty impressive (the B-52s)


Posted by: soubzriquet | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 2:07 PM
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Agreed with 69/71. In the early 1990s I was driving a 1979 car that got 30mpg, and was a station wagon, and now I'm driving an '89 car that gets 45mpg. The idea that modern cars are advertising low 30s as quite good is appalling.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 2:23 PM
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58: I didn't know you were Rebecca DeMornay.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 2:26 PM
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She has sex in trains?

Nworb, the one time that happened to me, the town was a sleepy little village in Brittany somewhere, and we didn't stay on the platform long enough for me to notice whether someone had managed to observe us. We were otherwise occupied.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 3:50 PM
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My God, Jackmormon, you've never seen "Risky Business"?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 4:00 PM
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39

Actually electric trains (like Amtrak between DC and NY) come in at .21 worse than short haul planes at .18.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 4:50 PM
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70

"I don't know if these plane/car/train carbon calculations take into account the fact that CO2 dumped at high altitude is about three times as greenhousey as CO2 dumped at ground level. That is important. "

It would be important if true but I doubt it is true. Do you have a reference? It is my understanding that the atmosphere is well mixed so that the concentration of CO2 does not vary with height (at least until you get very high).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 4:53 PM
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you've never seen "Risky Business"?

I think it was rated R when I was young and then wasn't canonical enough when I decided R ratings weren't important.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 5:26 PM
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79: heh! I refused to watch R rated movies for many years. It finally took my grandmother dragging me to one for me to give up the ghost. I think I was 12 or so.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 5:28 PM
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Isn't the fuel dump also to do with making sure the plane is not carrying too much weight? I was on a Paris-New York flight once that made an unscheduled landing at Heathrow because (I kid you not) the plane was making a strange noise. It was not really an emergency landing (i.e., I don't think it was perceived as any more dangerous than a regular landing), but I know they did a fuel dump.


Posted by: cdm | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 5:58 PM
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Some illustrative numbers, pulled from an airport planning document for the Boeing 767-300. Empty Weight: 186 klbs; Maximum Taxi Weight: 347 klbs; Maximum Takeoff Weight: 345 klbs; Maximum Landing Weight: 300 klbs; Maximum Zero Fuel Weight: 278 klb; Maximum Payload: 92 klb; Maximum Fuel: 112 klb. So if the plane is full up with passengers and cargo, it can land with 22,000 pounds of fuel; any above and beyond that would have to be dumped. This plane could do Paris-New York completely full, and since Heathrow is right next door, it'd probably have to dump 40klb of fuel.

One thing that people are still trying to understand is the effect of putting a lot of water into the otherwise completely dry stratosphere; apparently the days after September 11th had a 3 degree larger than normal day-night temperature difference due to reduced cirrus clouds.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 6:18 PM
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70: I'll chase one down


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 07-18-07 11:35 PM
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re: 73

Yeah, my (1.6 litre) 1997 car gets around 40 mpg (UK) doing ordinary mixed-use driving and well over 45mpg doing motorway driving. That's reasonably fuel efficient but not extraordinarily so. In fact, my previous car, which was a big old rusty (1989) 2.0 litre saloon, still easily got 35mpg or more.

However, I'd imagine big heavy SUV type vehicles, or cars with larger engines are the ones driving fuel efficiency averages down.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-19-07 12:42 AM
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Yeah, it's mostly the SUVs (and big pickup trucks, etc.) that get the abysmal mileage that drags down the averages.

Related:

Rainier Wolfcastle drives up to Homer Simpson in a gigantic Hummer-like vehicle and rolls down the window.
HS: Wow, what kind of mileage does that thing get?
RW: One highway, zero city.

Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-19-07 12:53 AM
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But trains are the best thing ever...


Posted by: Scott Lemieux | Link to this comment | 07-19-07 1:00 AM
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OK: the crucial concept appears to be "radiative forcing" which means that the damage done by commercial aircraft flying at the heights they do is much greater than a simple calculation of CO2 would suggest.

George Monbiot says

the climate impact of aeroplanes is not confined to the carbon they produce. They release several different kinds of gases and particles. Some of them cool the planet, others warm it. In the upper tropo-sphere, where most large planes fly, hot, wet air from the jet engine exhaust mixes with cold air. As the moisture condenses, it can form "contrails", which in turn appear to give rise to cirrus clouds - those high wispy formations of ice crystals sometimes known as "horsetails". While they reflect some of the sun's heat back into the space, they also trap heat in the atmosphere, especially at night; the heat trapping seems to be the stronger effect. The overall impact, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is a warming effect 2.7 times that of the carbon dioxide alone.

while the IPCC itself says

The burning of aircraft fuel has a "radiative forcing ratio" of around 2.7; what this means is that the total warming effect of aircraft emissions is 2.7 times as great as the effect of the carbon dioxide alone. The water vapour they produce forms ice crystals in the upper troposphere (vapour trails and cirrus clouds) that trap the earth's heat. According to calculations by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, if you added the two effects together (it urges some caution as they are not directly comparable), aviation emissions alone would exceed the government's target for the country's entire output of greenhouse gases in 2050 by around 134%. The government has an effective means of dealing with this. It excludes international aircraft emissions from the target.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 07-19-07 1:35 AM
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I feel very virtuous that my car (a 1994 Saab automatic ecoturbo, properly serviced) is almost only ever used for fishing trips, because it has terrible fuel economy in this country, not entirely because I drive like a maniac, because I don't. Goolge suggests that it's 22 miles to the American gallon in suburban driving (10.5 litres/100km)

But when I was, last year, pootling through Lapland on cruise control, I got it down to .85 litres/100km or 27 miles per American Gallon (ttaM and I use imperial gallons, which, like American waist size inches, are a more virtuous metric: it's 33 mpg like that.)

Of course, I could just hope that the trip computer is broken.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 07-19-07 1:44 AM
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Incidentally, if anyone hasn't seen:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,2129675,00.html

[this is quite a big deal]

More detail:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,2129544,00.html


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-19-07 3:41 AM
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Yeah, it's mostly the SUVs (and big pickup trucks, etc.) that get the abysmal mileage that drags down the averages.

My 1993 Plymouth Sundance gets about 19 mpg in the city and about 30 on the highway. By the city I mean REALLY in the city, when I go on an errand it is rarely more than 2 miles and usually involves at least 15 stoplights. I didn't realize it was so terrible before.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 07-19-07 7:07 AM
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From the TimesOnline blog:

According to a report out of New Zealand, Boeing, Air New Zealand and biofuel developer Aquaflow Bionomic are at work on a secret project: to make an organic fuel out of wild algae extracted from sewage ponds and other fetid watering holes.

According to Independent Financial Review, "if the project pans, out the small and relatively new New Zealand company could lead the world in environmentally sustainable aviation fuel." The companies are still testing the alt-fuel, trying to determine, among other things, its freezing point. Previously, Bionomic, has tested its algae fuel on ordinary automobiles, not at such stratospheric heights. Still, according to the same report, Boeing believes algae could be "the airline fuel of the future."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-19-07 8:55 AM
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I saw that algae article linked from Slashdot yesterday. It's promising all right, but the demo blend that got them their funding and initial media attention was apparently 95% regular diesel. And my impression is that diesel fuel's so disgustingly mixed-up and greasy that you could throw in 5% of virtually any hydrocarbon and still have it burn.

I do wonder whether algae's better at capturing the sun's energy than, say, corn or sugar cane. Perhaps it's just easier to convert it into long-chain hydrocarbons, while those food crops are better-suited to alcohol production.

Also interesting: nuclear aircraft.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 07-19-07 9:04 AM
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This source diasgrees at least regarding Amtrak. See also this.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-19-07 9:14 AM
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I believe this is a bit misleading as the other effects go away quickly if you quit flying whereas the CO2 will stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years so in the long run the dominant effect is from CO2.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-19-07 9:30 AM
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