Give Arnie and diesel their due

  Things are slanty all over. It's no secret that my fellow granola leftys don't like Hummer-driving meatheads (and John Mecklin really doesn't) (HCN, 7/23/07). While it's true that hydrogen is a sham, Schwarzenegger deserves a little more credit than HCN seems willing to give.

Your article somehow omitted that the MTV episode that he appeared on was about biodiesel, not hydrogen. He has also heavily supported solar, wind, pollution measures and other biofuels. In fact, the day I received this issue, news broke about Schwarzenegger signing stringent new diesel pollution measures into law that would require old off-road engines to be updated with new, cleaner, more efficient engines.

Will it be good business for some? Yes. Good business and sexy political campaigns are just the way it goes when you live in a capitalist republic. Just ask Al Gore. Mecklin is right that efficiency should come before anything else (a very valid point of Arnie criticism). Once again, though, our old biases keep us from seeing what makes the most sense in the big picture. Palmquist's article kept falling back to the "should be hybrid" side of things. That's: gasoline/electric hybrid. Hybrid technology is good, but it has had a sexy ad campaign of its own. Advertised to be in the 60s for miles per gallon, Toyota and Honda hybrids have a real-world fuel economy in the 40s.

Years before there were any hybrids, Volkswagen started selling a car in the U.S. that can get 50+ mpg, is able to run on renewable and cleaner-burning fuel, and can blow the doors off a hybrid. It's a diesel. So why haven't we been hearing about this? There's that old bias again.

Gabe Stephens
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Anonymous says:
Aug 27, 2007 05:19 PM

A response to Gabe Stephens whose letter was titled "Give Arnie and the diesel their due":

Friends have a 2006 Toyota Prius and have never seen MPG less than 50 no matter the driving conditions.  On the highway using cruise control they get the advertised MPG.

I hope you are not referring to the VW Rabbit diesel as the hybrid alternative because it is the dirtiest diesel I have ever seen.  They could be located half a mile from behind because of the smoke trail and the awful smell.  Fortunately most of them are gone.

By my reckoning 50 MPG of gasoline is better than 50 MPG of diesel.

Anonymous says:
Dec 19, 2007 03:47 PM

You're absolutely right about the old rabbits being dirty alternatives to existing hybrids. Those old "dino" diesels have been all but obsolete in the auto industry, for some time. I was refering to the TDI which came in four different car models. They belong to the newer computer controlled generation of diesels that possess far better emissions, efficiency, and power characteristics than old diesels.

Diesel engines are inherently 20%-40% more fuel efficient than gas engines (similar economy improvements of current hybrids). This is the main reason they've been used so widely for decades in Europe and the rest of the world. An added bonus is that they can run on straight biodiesel or vegetable oil, which are renewable and generally have far better emissions than petro-diesel. Vegi-diesel fuels are also more energy efficient to produce than ethanol.

I must clarify that its not hybrid technology that I have an issue with. Its the marketing hype that leads people to believe that a car thats meant to burn gasoline is the silver bullet we've all been waiting for. The most fuel efficient internal combustion vehicles in current development are diesel/electric hybrids. In collegiate sustainable vehicle competitions the top scoring teams built diesel hybrids and ran them on biodiesel.