Most television shows today open with either a sex scene or a corpse. Since sex is hard to write, I'll open with a corpse, or at least part of one. By my recent auto purchase, I have saved an estimated 0.002 life.
Slimming DownOn a Sunday evening almost two years ago,
I placed an ad on Craigslist to sell my 2000 Lincoln Navigator. The next Friday I met a couple at Yogurt Mountain and sold it. I woke up Saturday morning without a car. I emailed all the local Ford dealerships, and by 10:30 had a dozen offers, each successively lower. When they converged, I rented a car to drive to Charlotte to pick up my new car. I was at the dealership no more than 30 minutes to sign paperwork and take it for a quick drive.
In two years I have driven 20,000 miles, and average 80 mpg. My Navigator averaged 14 mpg. In my 20,000 miles, I have used 250 gallons of gas and 2800 kWh of electricity, compared to 1,429 gallons of gas I would have used in the Navigator. In dollars, this translates to $1,150 actual versus $4,650 that I would have spent with the Navigator.
On the surface, it looks like this:
So that's nice, right? I've saved $3,500 in two years, or about $150/month in fuel. But what else?
Quantifying PollutionMany of you know I've spent time in
I used EPA and DOE estimates of the emissions from both power plants and passenger cars to estimate the emissions saved from switching vehicles, summarized as:
|million m3 polluted||m3||483||192||60%|
I was surprised to have saved 9 tons of CO2 from hitting our environment. But some of you ostriches don't believe in global warming. (I do, I just don't know that its bad.)
The bottom line is the most striking, which I'll explain: Many people measure air quality by the PM2.5 index. Here in Greenville, we live with an index around 15 - 20, which means 15 - 20 micrograms of particles less than 2.5 microns per square meter of air. In Beijing or Shenzhen, the number ranges from 100 - 300. For those of us old enough to remember indoor smoking--the level inside a smoky bar is around 200. Most people draw the line for health hazards at 50, so that's what I did.
I have reduced our polluted atmosphere by 300 million cubic meters.
Where is the Corpse? or The Public Good Side of ThingsUsing various articles in Wikipedia, I determined that since September 11, 2001, the US has spent $2.3 trillion (including future medical and disability expenses) and 244,000 lives (military and civilian, US and foreign violent deaths) in wars in the Middle East to secure the purchase of 10 billion barrels of oil, which converts to 200 billion gallons of gasoline.
Having saved 1200 gallons of gasoline (it really is a lot), the proportion that I have reduced imports by is 0.000000006, or 6 gallons in 1 billion. Annually, it's a little higher, almost 50 gallons in 1 billion.
If these things scaled linearly (I know they don't), then I would have saved about 0.002 lives by my reduced oil consumption so far. Every 500 people who joined me in this choice would save a life every two years.
The part that surprised me was that spending $2.3 trillion for 194 billion gallons of gasoline amounts to a $12/gallon subsidy of the oil industry. So, again, if these things scale linearly, then I've saved the government $14,350. The $4,000 tax credit I received has already paid back 3.5 times. And it grows every year.
If 20 million people switched from gas guzzling land yachts to plug in micro-SUVs, we would eliminate our need for Persian Gulf oil, save $2 trillion on the cost of the next war and 200,000 lives. Unless the next war is bigger.
Where is the Downside?
Forget my faulty logic--I get it. Here is a summary of the upside:
- I'm saving $1,800 per year in fuel costs.
- I get to drive a peppy little car that makes absolutely no sound when driving in electric mode. Truthfully, tailpipes are so 20th century.
- I'm not polluting 240 million cubic meters of atmosphere every year.
All of that is a certain, indisputable fact. And if you believe that eliminating our purchase of Persian Gulf oil will reduce our need to spend a couple trillion dollars to kill a couple hundred thousand people in the next decade, then the savings there are about 5-fold more important.
The downside? For me, there really isn't one.