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9-20-2004

All safe?


Mark,

        I hope everyone is safe over in your neck of the woods.

        My uncle, who lives in Swoyersville, managed to make it to my house on Saturday morning.  It was pouring-I mean buckets, down in Shickshinny.  Fortunately I live on the top of one of the 5 mountains.  We set off for the PSU game and made it through Benton where the water was about as high as it could get without going over the banks.  After a detour and sneaking under a fallen tree out on 118 we were on our way.  I could not believe what we saw.  From Hughesville all the way to Bellefonte it was water everywhere and trees down, but the weird thing was that the sun was shinning brightly with white fluffy clouds.  We saw no less than 50 houses under water along the roadways.  At that point we weren't really thinking about the game.  We drove by an ATV and boat dealer at route 150 Mill Hall/Flemmington exit just outside of Williamsport.  The ATVs were lined up along the highway, the boats and trailers were floating in the parking lot.

        We managed to sneak through Bellefonte before the town was shut down along the park.  It turned out to be a beautiful day.  PSU played like crap, but managed to win big despite their best attempts to clutch defeat from the jaws of victory.  How a team can look like a National Champion one minute and then look like a Pee Wee football "C" team the next is beyond me.  Twice during the game, PSU recovered a fumble only to fumble it back away on the very next snap-once was at the two yard line.  If they had been playing anyone from the Big Ten they would have been killed.  Last week the had five turnovers against Boston College, so they follow that up with a SIX turnover performance against Central Florida.  This game should have been a prep game for starting their Big Ten schedule next week.  Guess what?  It's going to be a long season.  And PSU can't keep on their same old excuse that they are young and inexperienced.  True they have lots of Sophomores and Juniors, but a Senior QB shouldn't fumble away two snaps from center.  On a positive note, the defense looked just awesome.  Huge hits, the biggest and best secondary I have seen in a quite a few years.  They don't have a defensive back under 6' tall this year and their safety, Andrew Guman, is 6' 3", 210 lbs and hits like a train.  They had better put it together on offense and quick, or kiss it goodbye.  Teams in the Big Ten are just too good to be able to get away with mistakes.

        On the way home, we had less luck.  The roads by which we traveled were closed.  It was a long ride home out route 80, especially with the construction.  Can anyone remember a time when 80 and 81 were not being worked on.  I remember standing in the Strasburg Cathedral in France looking at the names of the masons that built the Cathedral over hundreds of years carved into the stone and seeing that there were 3rd and 4th generation family members that worked on the project.  I had a chuckle thinking that we probably have that on route 81 and 80 in good old PA:

        "Great-grandpa, tell me what it was like when you worked on route 81."

        "Well, sonny, I'd hafta say it was about the same as what your doin', 'cept we didn't have no shovels.  Nope, we had ta use our bare hands to tear out thet rock." 

          But I digress.  I made it through Mocanaqua just as the river went over 239.  The water was up to my doors, but I made it...whew…pays to have a truck sometimes.  I hit the light in Shickshinny as they were starting to evacuate the homes along the river.  Water was up to the park where I take my kids to play.  God it was sad to think that there was nothing those poor people could do but slowly watch the water climb up the steps of there homes.  They were still under water this morning.  I just hope no one got hurt.

        I'm not sure if you knew that there was another lefty hate website called "CoulterDie."  Yep.  Imagine that.  And from the party that just bleeds acceptance and diversity.  Of course they claim it's just a joke.  Yeah, it is just so DAMNED funny all the different ways to kill Ann Coulter.  Kind of like the book about how to assassinate George Bush.  So funny.  Tell me.  Why do Liberals always think killing or hinting at it is funny.  And why do they always claim sites like these are just jokes after they have been found out.

        I have been fiddling with some calculations concerning automobiles and gas mileage in our country.  My contention has always been that it is not the gas mileage of our vehicles that is the problem, but rather the fact that we have far more drivers in this country and that we can't refine oil fast enough to keep pace.  We have not built a new refinery in the US in 22 years!

        I found this bit of information:  **In 1900, motorized land transportation of people was almost entirely by railroad. In cities, people rode on electric street railways (streetcars) and for long distances they used steam railroads. In spite of the inherent efficiency of the low rolling resistance of the railroad wheel on a rail, the steam engines that powered railroads in 1900 were very inefficient. Only a few percent of the heat energy of the fuel was converted to useful work.  Electricity for streetcars was also very inefficiently generated. It then took about 8 times as much fuel to generate a kilowatt-hour of electricity as it does today.  Thus, while it may be a surprise to many, rail transportation in 1900 was relatively energy-inefficient.

Today (2000), most all passenger transportation is by automobile and aircraft. These are now over 5 times more fuel-efficient than the railroads and streetcars were in 1900.  Today we get about 32 passenger-miles per gallon (pmpg) for automobiles (including SUVs). Commercial airlines get the equivalent of 38 pmpg.  Note that 2 persons in a car that gets 20 miles per gallon results in 40 passenger-miles per gallon (40 pmpg). But in 1900, railroads and streetcars only got about the equivalent of a little over 6 pmpg despite the fact that they carried far more people.**

        Because of all the inherent losses associated with producing electricity it costs more per passenger mile for electricity than gasoline.  The fact that our cars get more mpg today by two to three times, has really done nothing more than keep us from having severe fuel shortages.  The problem is not foremost mpg-it is the number of drivers.  Should we abandon the CAFÉ laws and our search for more fuel efficient engines and alternative fuels?  No way, but we should be shifting our focus to actually building refineries using today's technology.

        In looking around for the mpg statistics versus the number of drivers I also ran across this: **Kay Neil doesn't need government statistics to know that small cars are more dangerous than large ones. Neil, founder of DWI Smart, Inc., which seeks vigorous prosecution of drunk drivers, has been in four car accidents involving drunk drivers and knows firsthand the risks of small cars.

Neil's first accident occurred 1953 when a drunk driver broadsided her 1953 Chevy. Back in the 50s, automobiles were much heavier. Nobody was hurt and neither vehicle sustained significant damage.

Neil wasn't so lucky in subsequent accidents, in which she was driving compact cars. A victim of polio in 1950, Neil blames car accidents in 1970 and 1981 for increasing the pain she must endure.

Neil's 1970 crash was particularly severe. In that accident, a 1961 Chevy Impala plowed into the back of her VW bug, pushing Neil's backseat forward four inches and sending her car into the air. Her car spun around twice. Neil believes her 1970 and 1981 accidents were more severe than her 1953 accident because her cars were smaller in 1970 and 1981.

Crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) support Neil's conclusion. According to the NHTSA, 302 additional people die in auto accidents for every 100 pounds cut from the average car weight. Between 1975 and 1985 alone, the average car weight dropped by more than 1,000 pounds, thanks largely to passage of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) law in 1975. Passed in the wake of the Mid-East oil embargo as a means of forcing the auto industry to increase auto fuel efficiency, CAFE mandates that automakers produce cars achieving an average of at least 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) and produce light trucks (such as sports utility vehicles) achieving an average of 20.7 mpg.  This means that for every car Ford, Chrysler or GM produce that get just 18 mpg, they must produce another car that gets 37 mpg.

The penalty for not achieving the standard can be severe: $55 for every mpg short of the required mpg, multiplied by the number of vehicles sold.  A million cars attaining 18 mpg instead of 27.5, for example, could cost an automaker over $522 million.

While CAFE has been successful in increasing the number of fuel-efficient vehicles on the road, it has also cost lives. According to a recent USA Today analysis of NHTSA and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data, 46,000 Americans have died in car accidents since 1975 that they would have survived had they been in larger cars. Despite this risk to public safety, there's talk of raising CAFE standards, particularly for light trucks like sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and minivans.  Environmentalists argue that higher standards for trucks make sense because many Americans use these vehicles just like cars.

Ironically, this is because of the CAFE law.  The law all but made the family station wagon, notorious for its poor fuel economy, extinct. Consumers seeking vehicles large enough and safe enough for their families had to turn to SUVs or minivans, which, because they are classified as trucks, fall under the easier-to-reach 20.7 mpg standard. The SUV alternative could be placed at risk by an increase in the light truck standard.

No parent wants to be forced to choose between a vehicle that meets his family's needs and one that is safe. Yet that is precisely what higher light truck standards would do.

"I respect our need to look out for fuel efficiency," commented Kay Neil. "But when it comes to the casual sacrifice of human lives, I don't agree. We have to decide if fuel economy is worth sacrificing human lives."**

        Guess this whole idea of CAFÉ standards and safety is really a difficult juggling act, but we never hear the safety aspect of the story.  All that gets attention is that we will destroy the planet with emissions caused by lowering the standards, which we know is foolish.  It doesn't mean we should be wasteful, but at some point we have to be realistic as well.  Safety should be first, and most people I know are also looking to save money on fuel costs.  In not being able to refine oil, shortages will continue, just like those we see every winter, regardless of safety standards or mpg standards, and the price will continue to rise.  We can't regulate ourselves to lower fuel prices unless we start decreasing the number of drivers and air passengers.  Somehow, I don't think that will happen.  I myself have three future drivers.

        BTW Mark, what's the going rate per hour down on Ross Street these days-wink, wink?  Hee, hee, hee.

        How about them New York Football Giants?  Am I wrong, or has the punt become the most boring play in football.  Every team tries to hooch punt the ball and hope it gets downed at the two rather than kick it out of bounds at the 12 yard line.  What ever happened to guys like Ray Guy who made a living off keeping teams pinned down inside the twenty?  Instead we get punt-touchback, punt-touchback.  Hell, the 19 yard line is better that the twenty.

Keep the faith.

Private Sector Dude