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Next cars must be simple, cheap

Readers' Letters
by: Patrick Cote Gary Graunke, co-chairman of the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association, charges the Honda Insight hybrid he converted into an all-electric vehicle. One letter writer says electric vehicles must save more than just fuel.

The real savings in electric vehicles (i.e. 'sustainability') should be in their simplicity of design, reliability of the components, cheapness of repair and feasibility of parts to be reused (Electric car gets its revenge, Jan. 20).

With the typical automobile, we have two power systems: the drive train operating on fuel and the accessories system, deriving electrical power from the engine's operation.

Conceivably, an all-electric vehicle would be simpler - and cheaper - to maintain, since the electrical components have uses in other applications, not just automobiles.

Repairing the conventional drive train gets more expensive every year, with sophisticated power plants, transmissions and suspensions. But designing an all-electric car with normal operating capabilities still has some major hurdles. Trying to force out the amount of power to be consumed will take some serious redesign of the batteries, wiring and circuitry to prevent burn out from too much amperage. However, as new lighter components are found to build the vehicles, the power demands will drop and the ranges should increase.

Sustainability, as it relates to fossil fuel consumption from vehicles, is not as serious a problem in cities as environmental advocates make it to be. A study by our own Metro showed that only 14 percent of the greenhouse gases in this region come from motor vehicle passenger transport.

Even assuming that greenhouse gases from fossil fuels are posing a threat, most of them come from other sources, such as residential heating, industrial consumption, office buildings and other commercial structures. Some of them even come from agriculture and cement production.

The sustainability achieved by any alternative-powered vehicles will come more from a reduced, affordable cost combined with long-term usability and reliability - not so much because they are an alternative to the internal combustion engine. Internal combustion engines are undergoing radical rethinking - examples include the Scuderi dual chamber engine, or rotary designs - so I would not write those off yet.

As fuel consumption decreases - Ford Motors sells a 65 mpg diesel compact in Europe - biofuel alternatives to petrol will become feasible.

Ron Swaren

Southeast Portland

Plug-ins may lead to brownouts

I just have one question about electric cars: Isn't the coal just being burned somewhere else to charge (fuel) them (Electric car gets its revenge, Jan. 20)?

Overall, how does our world benefit if many plants similar to the Boardman coal-fired unit are required to fuel the new fleets of electric vehicles? I read every summer about brownouts in metro areas, so what happens if everyone comes home and plugs their car in?

I hope the proposed answer is not wind farms or solar, because cars go every day - not just on windy, sunny days.

Dennis Lively

Tualatin

Size a factor for 'family' cars

I'm confused on why the Chevy Volt is in its own category (Green Dilemmas • Cars: Which way to go?, Jan. 20). It's a plug-in hybrid that can only go about 30 miles on battery-only. It's cheaper to put an expanded battery pack in a Prius.

Also, it should be noted that the Chevy Volt is classified as a compact car and the Nissan Leaf is classified as a mid-sized car. A very important difference for those looking for a 'family'-sized vehicle.

Chris Arnesen

Hillsboro

Protect the future - buy American

Buy a car made in America, not one that is assembled in America - protect the jobs of your grandchildren (Car sales lift local economy, Jan. 13)!

Dan Maher

Southeast Portland

Biodiesel drives up food prices

I work in the food industry. Since biodiesel and ethanol have been forced to the front of the line by well-intended (in some cases) but undereducated politicians, we have seen all food prices skyrocket (Fill 'er up, with fuel made in Oregon, Jan. 20).

Yellow grease, for example, today sits at $3 per gallon - it used to be 60 cents per gallon. Soybean oil today is at $6 per gallon - it used to be around $1.50 per gallon.

Corn is yet another disaster, but all the time we are told by the biofuel lobby that the corn used in ethanol would not be for human consumption. But what they don't tell you is all of that would have gone for animal feed. Causing these commodities to quadruple is causing all food prices to be poised to jump exponentially. Growing your way out of fuel is like borrowing your way out of debt: another government idea.

Joe Lovshe

Willow Springs, Ill.

Economics will solve climate debate

'How we can bridge the chasm in the global warming debate?' (ECO Thoughts • Polarized by climate change, Jan. 20).

We might start by framing the debate between 'man-made climate change science' vs. 'natural climate change science' - not 'climate scientists' vs. 'deniers.'

Mark Hixon, the author of the article, is not a climate scientist, he's a professor of zoology. When he frames the debate in this way, 'Regardless of the contributing reasons for climate scientists and deniers being perpetually at odds …' it strikes me that he has an agenda.

There are climate scientists who disagree with Mark Hixon. They don't call him a denier for not accepting their science.

Economics will solve the issue, not 'intervention.' As economist/journalist Frank Chodorov said, 'Economics, like chemistry, has nothing to do with politics.' Science will provide the most efficient use of our resources, provided they are unfettered by government policy. The most energy-efficient products always sell. We won't develop them if our resources are directed by government policy. If it's subsidized, it's not sustainable.

The debate is between freedom and 'government.' Where does Mark Hixon get his funding?

Stuart MacLean

Southwest Portland

Business doesn't need waterfront land

The entire premise of the (editorial board's) argument here seems to be that land/business sites along the waterfront are somehow absolutely essential for Oregon/Portland's development and economic recovery (Revise River Plan to encourage jobs, Jan. 27).

But there are vacant storefronts, etc., all throughout Portland and the rest of Oregon - probably establishments of all types. Why is development along Portland's South Waterfront the only hope, as this editorial implies?

Another option would be to take advantage of the state waiver language in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to set up single-payer health care in Oregon, as Vermont is pushing to do. Businesses would flock to the state to be rid of the expense of health insurance. Disconnecting health insurance from employment would also foster an entrepreneurial environment, as mom and pop operations would be financially feasible.

No, businesses do not 'need' the waterfront for Portland and Oregon to have a recovery. What is needed is to let go of outmoded paradigms; this ain't your grandfather's recession.

Terry Thompson

Southeast Portland

Tax money better used elsewhere

The other half of that $1.5 billion (for a Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail line) is going to come from us - you and me -our lottery money, our road money, money from schools, money from fire departments, money from needed social services and money from our police departments (Road a piece of waterfront puzzle, Jan. 27).

All that money to build something whose only purpose is 'development,' which is code for giving more tax money for rich developers to build high-density housing on land given to the developers at cut rate by our development agencies.

And light rail does not reduce congestion. (It carries too few people.)

Light rail costs far more than driving. (We could solve all of our congestion problems for the cost of light rail.)

Light rail uses more energy per person carried each mile than new cars that meet the latest energy standards.

The only purpose of light rail is corporate charity for buddies of our politicians.

Jim Karlock

Northeast Portland