Personal Log  #250

February 2, 2006  -  February 9, 2006

Last Updated: Sun. 2/12/2006

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Funding for what?  The proposed budget for 2007 included funding for oil & natural-gas drilling.  No surprise there, eh?  It gets worse though, $100 million is being pulled from some of the Energy Department's conservation programs.  And weren't we promised money for new research just a few days ago?  Then why is that absent?  For that matter, where is the money from last year's Energy Bill?  Now do you understand why I push to educate about the technology in Prius.  It's up to the citizens of the country to really make things happen, since the empty promises from certain politicians certainly aren't helping.


More Drilling.  Not only is Alaska a target for oil, now off-coasts locations by Virginia and Florida are too.  This addiction to oil is causing us to make the environmental damage worse, not better.  Ever hear of conservation?  What's wrong with simply trying to use less?  Aren't we suppose to be at war?  Doesn't that mean we should do something to help reduce the demand on resources?  Hasn't history taught us anything?  All right, I'll climb off the soapbox now.  But the "no need to change our ways" administration sure is frustrating.


Anti-Hybrid Campaign.  Someone pointed out a rather amusing post from a GM supporter on a GM forum today.  It was loaded with false information, no different from the nonsense we've seen for years.  Only this time, it appears that it is being taken more seriously now... kind of like a manifesto to form an anti-hybrid campaign.  Personally, I find senseless arguments like those quite redeeming.  The "facts" presented are easy to confirm incorrect.  Heck, it's even easy to see how only examples that support their anti-hybrid claims are selected and everything else is ignored.  The reality that GM is now aiming the spotlight on E85 alone as an answer rather than hybrids that can use E85 is very short-sighted.  Aren't they paying attention?  Ford announced that they are working on delivering one.  And all hybrids already have the ability to use E10.  That combining of solutions is undeniably better than just a single one.  Regardless, I get to have some fun by mocking the silly, like this: "The battery in hybrids only charges when the brakes are applied."  Is there anyone that actually believes that anymore?  Just one minute of looking at the Multi-Display while driving a Prius proves that statement grossly inaccurate.  Geez!


Ethanol Alone.  It is not the answer.  For that matter, neither are hybrids.  But combine the two and add a plug, then you've got a realistic long-term solution.  So all this recent E85 promotion is nothing more than an expansion of what we've already had in Minnesota since the late 90's.  There are plenty of vehicles around here now capable of using E85 (or any ethanol ratio up to 85 percent), but they simply don't... despite the fact that E85 is relatively easy to find and less expensive (to balance out the MPG difference).  So what the heck is that going to mean to areas where E85 isn't available?  Is this the same nonsense that would happen with fuel-cell vehicles, few will actually be interested in them due to the fuel being hard to find?  It makes far more sense establishing an ethanol infrastructure first.  Since all current gasoline vehicles are already capable of using at least E10, why not place the focus on them for now?  Once everyone is using that 10 percent blend, then introduce the 85 percent.  From an economic point-of-view, that�s a much better industry-wide strategy.  But then, certain automakers would have nothing to promote... making the absence of hybrid competition rather obvious.


More Impressed.  I was hoping someone would respond with a comment to that affect about the PSD design details.  And sure enough, it happened already.  By illustrating how extremely well thought out the hybrid system is, stronger support for it should emerge.  There is a definite growth, where people want to learn more as hybrids become more popular.  Being able to satisfy that curiosity is great.  And strangely, it stimulates my own feeling of curiousness.  I find myself wondering what will be next.  Time will tell.  New questions will appear as the current educational materials are studied.


Prius FAQ.  It is complete.  Several years of passionate effort has resulted in quite a few documents, a total of 90 heavily illustrated pages of information that I can share with other owners, hybrid enthusiasts, and the curious.  And I will.  The number of downloads for the website continues to be very strong.  I'm glad this collection seems to be doing the job, because my participation in the online forums has dropped to almost nothing.  Virtually all the posted messages I read now ask questions I have already provided answers for.  So there isn't much of a need to respond.  It is now just a matter of newbies being able to find those documents.  My frustration lives on though.  The number of monster-size gas-guzzlers has dropped dramatically over the past few months, but we are far from getting the resulting oil demand under control.  Fortunately, the next step will be initiated this evening.  During the SuperBowl, Toyota's next hybrid will debut.  Camry-Hybrid is the one that will truly entrench the acceptance of the technology.  Camry is an extremely popular vehicle in the first place.  Offering a hybrid option makes even more compelling.  None of the "it's too different" excuses people try to use against Prius will apply to Camry-Hybrid.  There will just be a remarkably smoooooth system delivering improved emissions & efficiency concealed within the very common Camry body.  Anywho, that makes stepping back from my formerly very active participation much easier.  The website has officially achieved the status of being a hobby now, rather than a weapon for the crusade.  Hope you enjoy all the FAQ material.  And yes, you are welcome to use what I provide to fight the war against pollution & waste.


The President's Plan.  It's taking a lot of heat.  I knew the plan was silly the moment I heard it.  What a joke.  He stated that we would stop depending on oil from the Middle East, implying intentions to end imports.  He even provided a deadline of 2025.  Shortly afterward though, his energy secretary clarified what he "actually" meant to say.  (This was likely really just a response necessary to keep those officials in the Middle East from freaking out by that declaration of not wanting their oil anymore.)  It turns out that the president "supposedly" meant to state that the goal was to prevent any growth in demand, that we will not increase our need more than it already is.  Those alternatives he suggested will just serve as a buffer from allowing the situation to get any worse.  In other words, we'll keep importing their oil until they don't have any left to sell us.  I wonder how many people will hear about this "clarification".  I bet it will get lost in a sea of other articles, allowing the original statement to become a misconception.  Of course, coming from this administration, it is of no surprise.  The same old "all talk and no action" policy.


Much More Green.  It was only 18 F degrees this evening.  The green was abundant!  Seeing those 7 bars on the Multi-Display was a very long-lasting event, and quite repetitive.  This seasonal influence sure is refreshing.  Just like the seasons here in Minnesota, you are guaranteed a wide range of annual change.  That variety is something I look forward too.  It redeems my confidence in the engineering each and every year.  How are the competition going to figure out how to deal with these routine environmental influences without taking the years of research & trials like Toyota did?  Maybe they are smart enough to wait before flooding the market.  Hmm?  It should be very interesting to observe real-world data from their hybrid vehicles throughout the changing seasons.


PSD Details.  Back in 2001, a very well-informed & resourceful Prius owner did us all a huge favor by publishing a webpage explaining how the Power-Split-Device works.  That was fantastic!  And since there was nothing else even remotely close to that level of information, it was referred to countless times over the years.  We will always be grateful for the help he provided.  And though the webpage was technical in nature, the audience back then was too.  So it worked out well.  But things have changed now.  It no longer compliments the stuff I share on my website.  People nowadays are looking for plain-english, non-technical documentation that can be printed.  His was complex and the animations simply could not be depicted on paper.  That left an unfulfilled need.  I finally accepted the challenge.  I think I did a pretty good job too.  The resulting illustrations are somewhat basic in nature and the words are carefully chosen to appeal to those without any prior automotive knowledge.  We'll see if it fills the need... PSD details


Gas Prices.  They have been around the toggle point for a surprisingly long time now.  I always stated that $2.25 per gallon would make people reconsider their consumption choices.  And it appears as though the decision to change is catching on.  Those cynics that insisted change wouldn't come until prices hit $3.00 per gallon have been proven clueless.  This extra $5 cost per fill-up is starting to hurt.  And this is the slow & cheap season.  Just wait until the travel & storm season begins.  The increase in demand and decrease in supply will certainly cause gas prices to rise.  Odds are the price of oil is in jeopardy too.  The best the struggling automakers can hope for is a delay.  The population continues to increase, causing worst commute traffic and supply resources to be further strained.  Ignoring the problem (like they have been) won't fix it.  The only choice now is to use less.  Hybrid technology will be acknowledged as a solution to that now.  It's about dang time!


Extreme Anti-Hybrid.  It's getting so absurd, I'm not sure what to make of it.  The handful of publications against hybrids are getting rather blatant.  Today's article supported the belief that Toyota is still losing money on the sale of each hybrid and praised the efforts of fuel-cell research.  Who exactly is their audience now?  Why would anyone be satisfied waiting until 2010 just to see the very first supposedly competitive fuel-cell vehicle become available?  Don't they realize that from the time of introduction to the time of mainstream acceptance takes several years without an infrastructure change?  But since fuel-cell vehicles require fuel that isn't found anywhere yet, it will most definitely take longer.  And by then, hybrids will be so incredibly well proven I'm not sure who would be interested... especially with the possibility of the plug-in option.  Why use electricity to create hydrogen for a fuel-cell when you can just use the electricity directly with a hybrid?  That extra step doesn't make any sense.  Of course, I haven't even pointed out cost or reliability of fuel-cells, nor the range between fill ups.  But then again, I don't need to.  Anyone reading this is well aware of the existence extreme anti-hybrid articles anyway.  When a big automaker with a long history begins to suffer, a few people will come to its defense... even if the battle is futile.  Going down with a fight is considered a more honorable choice for some than just accepting the loss and moving on.


$180,000,000,000 more.  That's what the Bush administration is asking Congress for to fund the ongoing occupation in Iraq.  That would bring the total spent by early next year to $440 Billion!  It is an amount far greater than what they claimed would ever be needed back when the election debates were taking place.  And it is drastically higher than the lame $2 Billion for hydrogen research.  Kind of makes you wonder how little the tax credit for hybrids will actually pay out, especially since the alternative minimum tax will prevent many people from collecting the entire amount.  Just think how much wounded soldiers will require for disability payments.  Putting all that into perspective, virtually nothing is actually being spent on the consumption problem we have.  Didn't President Bush say we were "addicted to oil" just two days ago?  And isn't that his fault anyway?  I clearly remember his encouragement to buy monster-size gas-guzzlers right after 9/11 because it would be "good for the economy".  That was rather short-sighting.  We are actually worse off now.  Having encouraged hybrid development back then would have helped to avoid the mess those monster-size gas-guzzlers heavily contributed to.  Instead, hybrids were completely ignored.  Prius owners were screaming for attention, yet none was given.  Now all we get is a token gesture.  Shouldn't solving problems at home get more than that?


Minnesota Speech.  President Bush was just down the road from here today.  I listened to his speech live on the local public radio station.  There were two main points related to oil that he made.  One was this about a vehicle technology: "We may not see them tomorrow, but our children will see them."  What kind of nonsense is that?  He is still ignoring the hybrids already on the road today... trying to convince us that waiting is still required.  How can he be so stubborn?  Camry-Hybrid production will begin very soon, in Kentucky.  That is employment for American workers building vehicles for American buyers.  Why the heck isn't he acknowledging that?  Arrgh!  Next was the theme that there is no need for us to conserve.  He said "No dependence on oil from the Middle East" will be achieved by substituting sources.  That means biofuels and more drilling in our own country.  Why not just promote using less oil?  Needless to say, I'm more frustrated than ever.


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