Two small bits on cars and global warming

First, yesterday Treehugger reported on the new Citroen C2 with "stop/start technology" that cuts the engine when the driver steps on the brakes, and restarts it within 400 milliseconds of letting up on the brakes. In addition to the gasoline savings this will provide, Citroen is also offering a "a cashback incentive of £1,696 (US$2,963, "sufficient to cover one year's London Congestion Charge") to buyers of the new C2 Stop & Start." And, the price of the car is reasonable: £10,690 (US$18,674), not including the cashback incentive. (see also Green Car Congress)

I'm sure I need not point out that it seems contrary to Citroen's goal implicit message (thanks, Donal) to offer the cashback savings that's no-so-coincidentally the same as London's congestion charge.

Then, if you will allow me a little bit of topic leeway here, I thought that some of you might find a current discussion on global warming at Environmental Economics interesting. On April 3, Tim Haab and his inner (really, not so inner) economist—responding to a post by George Will—wondered whether global warming is really going to be all that bad for the economy:
Now I'm not going to claim that climate change is a good thing, but I have claimed before that there are benefits to climate change.  Who's to say that higher sea levels won't provide long-term benefits--despite the short term discomfort of relocating large populations?

Heck, I'll go so far as to propose we use an "Indiscretionary Principle" and proceed on the current course and see what happens.  We can always adapt later...right?

Of course, he caught a lot of flack for that in the comments, so yesterday, he tried to explain himself. He compared his inner human to his inner economist, coming up with a set of questions for both sides to answer. Here's one of them:
Assuming global warming is happening and it is caused by human behavior, should we do something about it?

Internal Human:  Of course, you moron.  Global warming is bad and we caused it so we have to stop it, reverse it, do whatever we can to save the earth for future generations.

Internal Economist:  Well, that depends.  Simply because we have demonstrated that global warming is happening and that we caused it, that doesn't automatically imply a call to action.  What are the consequences of action versus inaction?  Is climate change necessarily the equivalent of climate degradation?  Why is change always bad in this context?  Shouldn't we compare the expected benefits and costs of action against the expected benefits and costs of inaction rather than simply declare: Change is bad..therefore we must prevent (or reverse) the change?

I am not posting this because I'm looking for some economist-bashing, so please make sure to play nice, everyone.
Makes sense to me.  Though my thinking is "Can we?" rather than "Should we"? Just because we caused global warming doesn't mean we can reverse it.  

Our priority should be sustainability, and that may mean going along with the change rather than trying to stop it.  

I'm sure I need not point out that it seems contrary to Citroen's goal to offer the cashback savings that's no-so-coincidentally the same as London's congestion charge.

You lost me.  What is Citroen's goal other than to sell cars?  

By promoting this technology, they're (not coincidentally) sending the message that they're environmentally conscientious. By telling the public that they can now drive in downtown London without worrying about the cost of congestion pricing, they're undercutting that message.

But yes, of course, you're right. Their goal is not to be environmentally conscious, it's to sell cars. Poor choice of words.

This conversation between the Internal Human and the Internal Economist might appear reasonable at first blush, but the economist is off his rocker.

How can you even BEGIN to total up the costs of global warming?  We have no idea.  Just to take one example, what is the cost of having all land based glaciers melt, and to lose the resulting runoff which feeds lakes and rivers (and provides water to irrigate crops)?

To do this kind of "analysis", you have to know what the effects of global warming will be.  We haven't a clue.  Do we know just how much warming there will be?  Do we know whether or not the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica will melt?  Do we have any clue?

The notion that this kind of cost/benefit calculation can be made is simply laughable.

I totally agree. We have no clue. But we can at least try some guessmates... better than nothing, right? What I fear is that economics as always will choose not include in the costs the destruction of ecosystems and all other impacts we humans have chosen to ignore by default.

The second problem (unfortunately) is that the balance costs / gains would be different for the different players. Countries like USA and China will resist curbing CO2 emissions to the very end, while Nepal or UK will have it as top priority. The net effect would be similar to what we saw last year - the biggest CO2 level increase of all times.

Hi LevinK,

Sure, we can try to guesstimate.  But when I think about it, the ledger seems heavily weighted in the "climate change is bad" direction.

Our economy (not to mention the world's ecosystems) is adapted to the climate we've experienced up until now.  Whatever change occurs, it is highly unlikely that we will be better adapted to live in the changed conditions.

It is analagous to an organism.  I read an article yesterday (Peak Energy linked to it) about coral reefs dying en masse in the Carribean due to increasing water temperatures in the summer.  The environment changed in a way the coral is not used to.  They didn't flourish, they died.  I see the same negative consequences coming from global warming.

Cities are built on rivers as they exist now, the breadbaskets of the world are based in areas which currently have good growing conditions, etc.

I think the "we should do a cost/benefit analysis" argument is just a reasonable sounding smokescreen to delay taking preventive measures.

I think the "we should do a cost/benefit analysis" argument is just a reasonable sounding smokescreen to delay taking preventive measures.

You probably think so, because it would be a daunting task and the interested parties will have the opportunity to argue against the conclusions for years.

But the reality is that a cost/benefits analysis is the only way to make those with money and power take some decisions and justify the enormous amounts of money that needs to be spend to tackle the problem.

In this analysis though I insist that we at least try to include the risks and the actual destruction of our environment due to GW. I realise that we can hardly price the extinction of the corals, but this is what our society is for - money. If you do not put a price tag for it nobody will take it serious. It may not be cynical, but so is the world we live in... Believe it or not, I've actually read in an economic textbooks how presumably smart people are calculating the cost of the human life - by the net present value of the expected income of the person until he/she retires. So the graduated student is "expensive", a retiree is worthed a lot less and if you are unemployed you are obviously worthed nothing... blah

Ooops that should read:

It may be cynical, but...

Hi LevinK,

Let me try to recap my position.

Performing a meaningful cost/benefit analysis of climate change is impossible.  There are too many unknowns, and any $ values you place on the costs and the benefits are just guesses.  The ultimate balance sheet is therefore worthless as a guide for future action (or inaction).

The only reason for asking for such an analysis would be to get someone bogged down in the discussion, to argue over the $ amounts, etc., in order to gum up the works and prevent any action from being taken to mitigate the problem.

The qualitative information we do have all points toward serious problems coming down the pike.  This is all we need.  I don't agree with the notion that everything needs to be put into $ terms before things can be discussed, or decisions reached about what policies to pursue.  I simply reject that hypothesis.

Perhaps it is better to consider that cost/benefit analysis related to climate change can occur at different scales. I think it is self evident that macro scale estimates as to the economic impacts of climate warming are impractical. Any figure cited by any group will invariably be skewed by the mandate of the group. But a choice between one technology or system and another can very easily be analysed for cost benefit, with consideration for effects externalised by classical economics. That is not to say that the valuation of the externalities will be accurate, but this does not mean that such valuation is useless. Indeed a major part of socioeconomically responding to climate change is devising new means of previously externalised costs. Measurement of economic flows is always developing and revising previous metrics. They are persistently imperfect but somehow, persistently practical. Why then should valuation of environmental and social impacts be rejected outright? IMHO it deserves a fair shot at development and integration into existing economic theory.
Speaking as an economist, I am a big fan of economic analysis--where it can be applied appropriately.

By its nature, economic theory is relatively well equipped to deal with incremental change, changes where parameters stay stable, functions that you can differentiate because they are continuous.

But in regard to discontinuities and parameters that suddenly become highly variable, traditional economic analysis breaks down. For example, could you do a cost-benefit analysis to decide whether or not it was of economic benefit for the U.S. to fight in World War II? I don't think so.

Similarly, when dealing with "lumpy" problems, you are forced to discard the sophisticated arsenal of economic "weapons of mass optimization" and fly by the seat of your pants.

Having said all that, I do believe in the effectiveness of market prices to help us find good responses to problems of increasingly costly oil and also effective approaches to various envirnomental problems. No, the market will not "save" us, but intelligent laws that use market forces as an alternative to government command/bureaucracies can make a huge difference to deal with what is one of the biggest challenges humans have faced since the onset of the last ice age.

Well, how much is the basis of the oceanic foodchain worth to us?  Coral reefs are dying in the warming seas, exacerbated by increased UV from ozone depletion, of course.  Either way, doesn't matter much, we humans are pretty unconcerned with our mode of destruction, s'long as we kill as much as possible.

Not to mention plankton, down by 30% in one study -

Which, in concert with deforestation, may rob us of our breath -

How much is that worth?

may rob us of our breath

How about this breath robbing:

a particular engineered bacterium that had been approved by the USEPA for field testing.
These bacteria would therefore get into the root systems of all terrestrial plants and begin to produce alcohol. The engineered bacterium produces far beyond the required amount of alcohol per gram soil than required to kill any terrestrial plant.

Where can you get these bioengineered yeast organisms? They would be a boon for alcoholics! No distilling needed to make vodka from switchgrass. The advantage is that as more people will want to drown their sorrows, they can cultivate their own drinkable E85 and it placates the teeming masses by getting them too drunk to care about anything. Could THIS be the best use of ethanol?
Where can you get these bioengineered yeast organisms?

Hopefully, one can't go out and obtain the bacteria.

No distilling needed to make vodka from switchgrass.

Vodka is defined as being at least 40% ethyl alcohol.   I know of no way to obrain such a level w/o distillation.

placates the teeming masses by getting them too drunk to care about anything.

The problem is, untill you die, you can eventually sober up.

But killing more is Good.
Perhaps they can persuade Robert Tuttle, the US ambassador to
the court of St. James to buy one as he is refusing to pay the London congestion charge, much to the annoyance of Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London who with his customary understatement and diplomatic manner called him a"chiselling little crook"
"I'm sure I need not point out that it seems contrary to Citroen's goal implicit message (thanks, Donal) to offer the cashback savings that's no-so-coincidentally the same as London's congestion charge."

Most people will probably pocket that money and not drive more than they would otherwise, though. The congestion charge - from what I know - is pretty effective.

My apparoach would be risk versus reward.  The risk is permanent global societal collapse due to changed weather patterns.  The reward is the possibility of maintaining the status quo for a few more generations, perhaps.

Considering the lack of consensus on peak energy and its societal impact, it is absurd to initiate debates such as the one outlined above.  Now, not bashing the economists here or in the world at large, but I am struck by the fact that only they would think of even considering this issue.

Regarding George Will:

After reading his columns and listening to his opinions for many years, I am totally convinced that there is literally NO subject on heaven or earth for which he considers himself unqualified to pontificate upon.

Attention must not be paid.


Caveat reader is my opinion when it comes to George Will.  He wrote a column of his on Peak Oil about a year ago.  Not surprisingly, his message was not to worry, the market will solve everything.

The thing that really pisses me off about Will is his smarminess.  In the peak oil article, he said that deepwater drilling in the GOM could yield 25 billion barrels of oil.  Now, that sounds like a lot, until you realize that it is only about 10 months worth of global consumption.  But Will didn't put it in context.

In the more recent global warming article, he brings up the fact that in the 70's scientists were warning about global cooling, implying that climatologists can be trusted about as much as a psychic when it comes to predicitions.  The reader is left completely ignorant of the fact that the mechanisms for the initial cooling (aerosols), and now the warming (greenhouse gases) are well understood, and that there is virtually complete consensus among the scientific community.

I was impressed by his aknowledgment of the need to relocate millions, maybe a billion, people. Now where are we going to put them? How about OTEC powered floating cities?
We'll send them to Houston where Barbara Bush will tell us they're better off than where they were.
Let's see what George Will wrote:
Science magazine (Dec. 10, 1976) warned of "extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation."
Science Digest (February 1973) reported that "the world's climatologists are agreed" that we must "prepare for the next ice age."
The Christian Science Monitor ("Warning: Earth's Climate is Changing Faster Than Even Experts Expect," Aug. 27, 1974) reported that glaciers "have begun to advance," "growing seasons in England and Scandinavia are getting shorter" and "the North Atlantic is cooling down about as fast as an ocean can cool."
Newsweek agreed ("The Cooling World," April 28, 1975) that meteorologists "are almost unanimous" that catastrophic famines might result from the global cooling that the
New York Times (Sept. 14, 1975) said "may mark the return to another ice age."
The Times (May 21, 1975) also said "a major cooling of the climate is widely considered inevitable" now that it is "well established" that the Northern Hemisphere's climate "has been getting cooler since about 1950."
End quote

So, in the 1970s the national media assured us that there was agreement among scientists that the earth was cooling, glaciers were advancing, and that we were headed for another ice age.

Now, just 30 yrs later, the national media assures us that scientists believe that the earth is warming, glaciers are melting and we are headed for a catastrophic warming period.

How can there possibly be scepticism ?
But of course THIS time the scientists really believe it. Really. Not like last time, when the national media tried to spin a catastrophe that really wasn't. That could never happen now.

I found this Mark Twain quote the other day (someone sent it to me via email) on the perils of extrapolating trends.

Now while I am not necessarily saying that this applies to all climate change science, it does make you think about taking all of these predictions with a few grains of salt.

"Now, if I wanted to be one of those scientific people, and "let on" to prove what had occurred in the remote past by what had occurred in a given time in the recent past, or what will occur in the far future by what has occurred in late years, what an opportunity is here! ... Please observe: In the space of one hundred and seventy six years the lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average over a mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the lower Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the lower Mississippi was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty years from now the lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and will be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor... There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment in fact."

Mark Twain, from his book "Life on the Mississippi"

Nice One!
Hi RedRiver,

Look, the media reported on global cooling in the '70's.  And they were partly right - the world was cooling at the time, even though warnings of a new ice age were not correct.  I don't know how well the cooling was understood at the time.

You always have to look critically at any major claim, such as climate change.  Scientists are wrong all the time.  Remember cold fusion?  And when the media reports on the scientific community, the waters can get muddied even further.  In my experience, the media usually leaves off the caveats usually provided by scientists.

The point, though, is that scientists are constantly testing their theories and hypotheses against data collected in the real world.  Which means our understanding is improving all the time.  And that is especially true of our understanding of the climate, and how humans are impacting climate.

There is always room for skepticism.  But this "last time the media said" argument is disingenuous - it ignores our improving understanding of the situation.

"... that doesn't automatically imply a call to action.  What are the consequences of action versus inaction? "

Reminds me of a Great (by way of being terrible) subway ad series that ABC had going, some 5-6 years ago in NY.  The line was,
"Don't just sit there.  Well, ok... just sit there! -ABC"

That, or the classic John Klies in Life of Brian ..

Judith- "Something is ACTUALLY HAPPENING, Reg!"

Reg- "Right! This calls for immediate discussion!"

errr,  John Cleese, I guess.  Must've been blinkered by the 'Kliegl' lights or something..

"They Spell it Vinci, and pronounce it 'Vinchy'.  Them foreigners could always spell better than they could pronounce."  -Mark Twain

.. and exactly WHY does it sound so much better to say 'The engine restarts in under 400milliseconds'.. than 'in under half a second?'(ie 500milliseconds). No, you don't have to tell me.  I know why.  I'd like to see a form of regenerative braking that takes the energy of stopping and gives you a push when the light is green again.  Could be pneumatic, springs, or HubMotors with Charging Capacitors..

Nobody quoting Cleese or Python needs to spell. It's a very small group that even understands. Remember the one where the guy goes into the wrong room looking for an argument? Precious.
Argument (535k)

And this one might be appropriate for our Doomer

Without looking, does it have something to do with an 'Ex-Parrot'?

Sounded like a doomer line, to me..

"Romanii veni DomUM"  (I'm SURE the spelling is off on that one.. I, for one, have no idea how to conjugate latin)

No, but the Parrot skit is out there too - one of my favorites!
Someone did a nationally syndicated political cartoon showing Bush staring at a parrot nailed to a perch in a petshop.  The parrot was labeled "the economy" and Bush was saying, "It's not dead.  It's just...resting."
Regarding the Citroen - if I were to devise a strategy to increase fuel economy, I'm not sure I would focus on idle.  Certainly at idle fuel economy is infinitely bad, but unless one is spending a lot of time in stop and go, I doubt the amount of fuel used at idle is all that significant compared to when the vehicle is actually doing work.  And usually the engine management system is running the mixture quite lean in this mode.  

I suppose it's pretty cheap to implement this though, so why not.

Well, for what it's worth, the Prius also utilizes this strategy.  Once the ICE is warmed up for pollution control purposes, it shuts down at stop lights (as well as other times). I've never done the math, but even when well into a tankful, when I come to a stop before the engine's warm, so it keeps running, I can watch my cumulative MPG indicator tick down by several tenths just at one light.  That's not insignificant when the basis is several hundred miles.
Well, when an internal combustion engine in a car is idling it IS doing a not insignificant amount work, i.e., the work required to overcome the engine compression, the various frictional losses inherent in the engine itself, and the work required to run the alternator and the various accesories such as air conditioning.

The internal engine frictional losses are more or less directly proportional to engine displacement. That is one of the reasons why the auto industry has been steadily moving toward smaller engines with higher output per unit of displacement. And that is also why large-displacement engines, such as a late 1960s Chrysler 440 cubic inch V8 for example,  get such poor city gas mileage ...just the work needed to keep the thing idling comsumes a large amount of gas.  Such engines don't get such great mileage on the highway, either, but the difference in mileage between them and modern high-performance engines isn't as great on the highway as with city driving.

So, if you're driving something like a 1970 Dodge Charger with a 440 engine, auto transmission, and high gear-ratio rear axle, and you do a lot of city driving, don't expect to get out of single digit gas mileage. (But that doesn't matter, if the car is in fine condition it is worth plenty.) The brief Muscle Car era was a lot of fun while it lasted, but it sure came to a screeching halt during the 1973 Oil Embargo.

Today's high-performance cars are SO much better in every respect, but they just don't have that certain crude and brutal feel as some of the old Detroit Iron.  

This is all nonesensical nostalgia, because before too long we will all be driving variants of the Toyota Prius. And I suppose that's the way it should be.

Sir, I am afraid you are wrong. Frictional losses would stem from the main bearings, and compression rings, and pushrods...(if you have them). These are not necesarily functions of displacement (a small 12 cylinder engine can have more friction than a large 6 cylinder). Also, by increasing the stroke without increasing the bore, displacement is increased without increasing friction.

The reason a 1960's v-8 burns sooo much fuel is because it has little to no real-time tuning. Yea a carb... you can kinda control how much fuel is going into the engine. (I am reminded of a year that gm's 305ci made a whopping 127hp).

Overnight the auto industry discovered computers. Suddenly you didn't need 305ci to make 127hp, you could do it with 200, or by today about 100. And cutting that much cast iron out of the engine decreased the weight of the vehicle, and made it more fun to drive. I haven't much time, but in sum:

Friction in an engine is most affected by the type of lubricant used.
6.0 Liter cars are comming back (Camaro, Charger, Challenger, Mustang...) and thanks to ECM's getting near 30mpg on the highway. (Go look up what cylinder deactivation is)
I can't wait until we get the final peice of the puzzel and computerize the valvetrain...

There is another loss you missed. That loss is with accellerating and decellerating the pistons themselves and the connecting rods. Becuse they reciprocate, energy is used to start them and stop them each time they move. While the crankshaft and flywheel recovers some of that lost energy, some is lost. That inherent inefficiency is why someone invented the Mazda rotary engine and also the gas turbine. I bet normal friction is the bigger loss, but I bet the pistons loss isn't insignificant. And of course, the Automatic transmission is really lossy.
Well, without putting too fine a point on it, there are many sources of frictional losses within an internal combustion engine.  I just tried to name the main ones.

I still maintain that, all things being equal, frictional losses are more or less directly proportional to displacement, within the bounds of a certain type of engine configuration. If, say, you scale up a 200 ci engine to a 400 ci engine, with all the key dimensions proportioned accordingly, the 400 ci engine will have roughly twice the frictional losses as the 200 ci engine. Roughly, I say.... not exactly. Sure different configurations of engines will have different frictional losses, but I'm only speaking in general.

And the type of lubrication will affect the various engines in more or less the same manner. So that is a wash.

And finally, I seriously question the claimed EPA highway mileage for some of these big 6.0 liter engines. Hell, I don't even get anywhere near 30 mpg on the highway with my 2.2 liter Subaru Legacy wagon. So why should a 6.0 in a car significantly heavier?  Gas mileage is like fishing and sex: everybody lies about it.

Clearly, the trend will continue: smaller displacement, higher output engines. With more and more real time control of the vital engine functions.

Generally, the frictional losses go up with swept volume per unit time.  Half the displacement at twice the rpm will have similar frictional losses.  There are a whole host of secondary and tertiary issues as well.  It is easier to get all the fuel to burn, and to control it accurately, with a small combustion chamber.  Inertial losses go up with the mass of the moving parts.  

I have no doubt that idle losses are noticeable - as I said it is fuel used not moving the car.  I'm just not sure that focusing on that first would make sense.  For instance, I doubt it would even be noticeable on my commute (I'm not at idle much).  OTOH, it's probably not a big deal to do, so go for it.  


Also, by increasing the stroke without increasing the bore, displacement is increased without increasing friction.

total hooey.

Maybe there is a misunderstanding here and light999 means that the friction force is not increased?  Whereas the frictional energy loss per cycle increases with stroke length even if the force is the same.  (I'm not sure whether it would be linear in stroke length.)
djd -

You are more or less right, but not completely.

Yes, it is correct that even if the friction forces related to the movement of the piston remain the same, that force moves over a longer distance (the increased stroke), and hence more work is required.

But the force does not quite remain the same. When you increase the stroke length (picture lengthening the pedal crank on a bicycle), the force from the piston exerts more leverage on the crankshaft and hence generates more torque.  The increase is not linear, but is related to some sine function having to do with the actual piston rod/crank geometry. In hot rod parlance, that is why a 'stroker' engine generates more torque: it uses a crank with a longer throw.

I will reiterate that, in general, if you have two engines with the same output, the one with the larger displacement will have greater fuel consumption due to having larger frictional losses (not to mention larger water pump, oil pump, fan, etc, etc).


  1. Citroen C1 is even smaller and more fuel effecient then the C2 is.

  2. Internal Human:  Of course, you moron.  Global warming is bad. Internal Economist: Of course, you moron.  Global warming is bad. Half the worlds population lives near the sea. Historically river delta's have the most fertile lands and are the most productive. Most people live there.

In other words, GW in economic terms is probably more devestating then in human terms.
Offshore hydroponic farming.  

"It's the wave of the future."

My understanding of the above thread--Cost Benefit Analysis is quite difficult and impercise therefore we better not use it.  The problem with this argument is it is used by both sides of the debate.  ---For instance, we know global warming is happening or might happen but don't know its costs will be therefore we need to do everything (nothing) to stop global warming.  Thus we should (not) stop driving SUV and (not) pursue green energy sources. The argument cuts both ways. It seems to me that cost benefit trys to seek a middle and a more factual ground.

Being an economist I tend to err on the side wanting to know the costs and benefits.  Yet I know the will have large confidence intervals (plus or minus billions?). I know that there is a power and a limitation to economic reasoniong.  We need to use this analysis coupled with equity both inter-generational (sustainablility) and intra-generational equity (north-south) as well as bit of humility to try to tease out an reponse path.    

I don't think economists answer the question but we can help focus the debate.


I'm not an economist.  I was required to take Econ 101 when I was working on my BS in chemistry and more econ when I was working on my MBA.  

Here's my problem: You assume that there needs to be, or, perhaps, should be or could be, a discussion about this topic and that economists can help define the debate.  

How about that this is a crock of stuff that is absurd on its face value?  It is analogous to the idiot economists who posit that peak energy is no problem because the market will come up with alternatives.

A long time ago I managed a process developlment group of 60 people in polymers and resins.  I was a wild child who loved pushing the envelope of reaction times.  But, I put my credibility on the line each time.  I didn't ask my staff to pull off my crazy ideas of cutting a 30 hour reaction to 7 1/2 hours.  I'd put on my hard hat and go out and do it.  Failure would have cost me my job.

Now, how many economists lose their jobs when they blow it?  I'll answer rhetorically, none that I'm aware of.  There is always some extenuating circumstance that couldn't have been foreseen.  In a debate that shouldn't happen in the first place, economists are the last group that should be involved.

Yankee, your inner economist sort of reminded me of this cartoon:
I signed up for a test ride of the under $10K Xebra:

I like the zebra paint job, I've wanted a car painted like that since watching Daktari, but the other colors look awfully retro.

Twike has starting listing prices in dollars, around $15K, instead of just euros:

The economic cost of global warming has been estimated by the large reinsurance companies. In 1995 the reinsurance companies started to pressure governments to do something. Hence the Kyoto protocol

"There's a significant body of scientific evidence indicating that last year's record insured loss from natural catastrophes was not a random occurrence," said the general manager of insurance giant Swiss Re in a 1995 internal report. "Failure to act would leave the industry and its policyholders vulnerable to truly disastrous consequences." Munich Re, another of the world's largest reinsurers, takes a similar stand, recently stating that "the threatened climate changes demand urgent and drastic measures."

The problem is not so much the slow planetary warming of a few degrees. In the 100 year timescale economics is blind. But an exponential increase in the number of expensive natural disasters is a serious economic problem. I can't find the Science articles showing the increase in strength and power of weather. These were written pre US hurricanes, I think in 2003-2004.

The Prius is cool. I put a rollaway toolbox in its large cardboard box in the back of mine and had room for another. It can seriously carrry stuff - I've been thinking about getting back into surfing and a surfer on priuschat says he can carry his 9'6" longboard inside w/o a problem.

But enough about coolness and its being able to take the place of a wagon or minivan. The two major things the Prius does is regenerative braking, and shutting the engine off when not needed. The old shut off the engine when sitting still trick goes back to WWII gas rationing I believe, and regenerative braking is an idea that's been around a long time too - it's just that toyota's actually done it.

Its two minor tricks are all that fancy computer stuff and engine etc management, and it has really clean aerodynamics. Driving with your window down and your elbow hanging out the open window will cost you a minimum of 10 MPG!

For all its fancyness this stuff isn't rocket science. Small thrifty hatchbacks have been done before. So has walking, biking, and I saw two guys on rollerblades today, those are cool too. I'd love to be able to do with so little that when I'd talk about my "wheels" they'd be a bike or 'blades.

We in the real world (outside of the US)
have to chuckle when we read discussions
about mileage and getting it up to 30mpg.
My Daihatsu 1300cc manual 5 speed does
around 55mpg.  And in NZ we pay $1.60 a
litre (US$4.40 a gallon). Of course our
wage level is about half that of the US,
so we also find the whingeing about
fuel prices rather amusing too.

But what I really wanted to say was the
cost-benefit analysis for global warming
must commence with virtually a total
wipeout of the US economy  -complete
destruction of pretty well every
building that is not hurricane or
tornado proof, total annihilation of all
farm production etc. as its base point,
since such a prospect is not just possible,
but is is more or less inevitable under
an abrupt climate change scenario that
results in a 5 degree C or 8 degrees C
rise in average temperatures. Even a
3 degree C rise in average temperature
(and we are well on the way to that)
will probably render much of the US

That economists are prepared to risk such
outcomes for the sake of maintaining the
the status quo is simply ludicrous.    

KevinM have you ever seen the movie Falling Down?

The central character represents the USA.

No I haven't seen Falling Down.
Tell me more.

But I have seen that marvelous
parody of economic gurus, Peter
Sellers in 'Being There'. Such
is the blind faith in the economic
system, walking on water becomes
a reality in the final scene.