Ernest Hemingway was once asked what's needed to be a good writer. I'll paraphrase this to "good reader."
His response was along the lines of needing "a built-in shock-proof crap detector."
What with the incredible ease of accessing Internet data (you'll note, I'll not call all of it "information"...), it's especially important today to make sure your detector is switched on. For that matter, it's worth keeping the device handy for one's own thinking as well.
On Clean Air
The headline read "Environmental Group: Carmakers fall short on fuel economy." Citing the Union of Concerned Scientists, the article noted that six automakers account for 87 percent of U.S. new car sales and 90 percent of air pollution from autos. (The italics are mine, my detector needle bouncing off its peg.) It lists these six automakers from cleanest overall to dirtiest (the needle twitches again): , , , , GM, DaimlerChrysler.
The gist of all this, I suppose, is to blame these profit-crazed automakers for foisting fuel-guzzling, smog-belcher SUVs on an unsuspecting public. Which, of course, is another story entirely; my detector needle has been known to display movement when an SUV owner says, "Yes, well, I do go off-road a little..."
Wading through the various agendas, I'm most bothered by that 90-percent jazz. I'm much more likely to believe another percentile statement: 85 percent of auto pollution can be traced to 15 percent of our fleet, namely the old bangers in need of maintenance (and not all that clean to begin with).
Here's a fact (the needle doesn't even quiver): Today's Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles, SULEVs, for short, are really clean. Specifically, on the basis of equivalent emissions,
4 SULEVS = 1 1998 ULEV
7 SULEVs = 1 1998 LEV
20 SULEVs = 1 typical car in 1990 and
40 SULEVs = 1 typical car in 1982.
Germany Ahead of the U.S.??
Another snippet of data that got the detector needle a'twitching was a ranking of automobiles/1000 residents in the U.S. and other countries.
Surprising to me, we weren't first. Germany led with 511.2; we followed at 480.6. Other car-crazies included France (463.2), Canada (444.0), Japan (394.3) and the U.K. (371.6). A footnote to these data laid the needle to rest: "Does not include vans, light trucks or SUVs."
En Garde, Excalibur Fans!
Excalibur, you may recall, was the name of King Arthur's sword and also of famed industrial designer Brooks Stevens' sports car. Come this June 6–September 6, the Milwaukee Art Museum will be setting a Brooks Stevens Design Exhibit. Accompanying the opening of the exhibit, there are plans to bring together Excalibur owners, ex-owners, former employees and others interested in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the car and 92nd anniversary of its designer's birth. For more details, Alice Preston, Camelot Classic Cars Inc., (414) 760-3111; [email protected]
Mine Used to Run Cooler Than Yours
I've learned that many automotive gauges are now electronically damped. For example, the needle on a temperature gauge rises to the one-third mark or so, then jumps to center—and stays there unless the actual temperature warrants perhaps two-thirds of its maximum reading. Said another way, everything is fine when all the needles stay at mid-scale. A reason for this is to avoid nitty owners comparing gauge readings and making irrelevant service complaints: "My neighbor's car has more oil pressure than mine...."