walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

threshhold effects

The Board of Selectmen in my town has recently taken to discussing whether or not employees of the town (like the police chief) can drive vehicles of the town (like, the police chief's car) home. Police officers at various levels have often commuted in their official vehicle because they are "on call" and need to be able to respond quickly and/or have access to what is in their official vehicle (flashers, sirens, radios, etc.) quickly. The BOS is trying to save money on gas. Needless to say, there's been some contentious discussion, both at the BOS meetings, in the local papers, around town, etc.

There are a variety of ways to think about what the town might or might not allow and how it would be accounted for. For example, if the police chief couldn't drive the town vehicle home, but needed its contents to do his job, one could imagine supplying portable versions for his own vehicle. One could also imagine having to reimburse him if he has to use his personal vehicle in the course of doing his job. Depending on how that worked out, there might or might not be any meaningful savings on gas, and it seems very likely there'd be some amount of hit to the level of service provided to/by the town.

Of course, the town has had the policy of letting various employees of the town make this call for themselves, because the cost of fuel was such that, compared to other costs the town incurs, it wasn't really worth paying attention to. This year, apparently, it is worth paying attention to. Last year, apparently, it was not worth paying attention to. Elephants back to at least 1999 when the current policy was instituted. This further complicates accounting for possible savings. Do you figure you save all the cost of gas, the amount increase over a year ago, two years ago, n years ago...?

I realize I've about flagellated this deceased equine to death, but I decided my next car was going to be a Honda Fit when I was still in Seattle (so, some time before September 2006). I tried to sell my WRX so we wouldn't have to transport it back to NH, but was unable to unload it quickly enough (I am, therefore, sympathetic to people who keep lowering their price and not finding any takers). I ultimately sold the WRX about a year ago in July 2007, IIRC. Because it took me longer to buy it than I had intended, and I had intended to buy it because of the increasing cost of gas, I was, shall we say, kinda startled to run across this statement in a comments thread:

"Last year this time gas averaged $3. There was no ignorant hysteria or widespread mobbish rage. In fact, there was no dialogue at all about oil, energy." Just for reference purposes, the comment was dated July 11, 2008, and can be seen as comment #10 here:

http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2008/jul/10/long-lists-future-hybrid-owners-forced-wait-save-m/

But then I put the BOS/town discussion of possibly saving a buck or two by screwing our public servants together with this comment and realized, hey! That _is_ what the world looks like to a broad band of people. Just because I was out there buying Peak Oil books before moving back to Seattle (so now we're looking at before February 2005), and yammering on about conservation, and why Jimmy Carter and the sweater thing is so unfairly vilified and blah blah blah -- that doesn't mean everyone was paying attention. A lot of people were not. But they are now.

A perfect example of a threshhold effect.

ETA: Last week on the Colbert Report, Colbert had a guy from Slate on talking about Green decisions, specifically, paper vs. plastic for bags from the grocery store (also car a/c vs opening the windows and compact fluorescent light bulbs which have mercury in them). These are all entertaining little lifecycle analyses, and odds on, you probably know the answers to all of these, in much the same way that I was watching gas prices well over a year ago (altho I had not developed my current fanatical devotion to tracking the daily gyrations of WTI). It kinda made me laugh, tho, because several months ago, the Shaw's locally started selling those made-from-recycled-something-or-other bags for a $1 each and they've caught on quite strongly. This is in New Hampshire. Not California. Not Washington State. Not even Massachusetts.

ETA2: If in the course of reading following some of these links and reading the comments you get a little concerned about SUV owners and others who assert Priuses suffer from an unusual fire hazard, let me just share the following actual test by actual fire fighters of what would happen to an actual, unmodified Prius if the Prius were fully engulfed in fire (which can happen to _any_ kind of car, judging by what I'm finding through google).

http://cms.firehouse.com/content/article/printer.jsp?id=54882

No particular problems due to the battery pack, which melted some, but released nothing unusually nasty and was not itself involved in the fire.

If you decide to mess with your Prius to make it a plug-in involving Lithium-Ion batteries instead of the Ni-MH that it ships with as a hybrid, however, I should note that you might want to do a little testing before deployment. At least one person out there had some problems.

ETA3: Gotta love it when a blog at wired is advocating buying a mid 80s Chevette. Words fail me, so read it yourself at:

http://blog.wired.com/cars/2008/05/the-ultimate-pr.html
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