[extropy-chat] Sustainability philosopy as a justification for existence

Olie Lamb neomorphy at gmail.com
Tue Sep 5 01:43:00 UTC 2006

On 9/5/06, Robert Bradbury <robert.bradbury at gmail.com> wrote:

> This can be thought of in near term perspectives -- does one buy a Flex
> Fuel car or a Hybrid car (or does one bike to work)?  Is one "religiously"
> strict with oneself -- i.e. the *MONEY SAVED* by buying a 1972 inefficient
> highly polluting vehicle (perhaps 20-40x cheaper than a new "green" car)
> invested in companies producing ethanol, solar cells, better food crops,
> lifespan extension, etc.  Or do you take that money and use it for some
> "frivolous" purpose?


To compare the benefits of one option against another, you can use a
"Life-Cycle Analysis" (LCA) for each option.  Although rigorous LCA
calculations can require a stupid amount of research, and an LCA can never
cover all the aspects of an issue, a simple estimation can confirm whether
your gut is sensible about the impacts of one option against another.

Just say you plan to travel 5,000 km/year over the next 5 years.  Your
options are 1972 OldGuzzler,  2006 Hybrid or bicycle

(Note:  the following figures may be highly inaccurate)

Time LCA:
You'll be travelling an average of 100 km per week; a 10 km journey each way
5 days a week with nothing left over (or less per working day plus
occasional/weekend travel).  Driving this in a typical city might take 15
min each way (same for guzzler & hybrid); cycling might take 30 min each
way.  Over 5 years, this amounts to 500 hours driving, or 1000 hours

Energy LCA:

The Old Guzzler has effectively no embodied energy, if you're looking at
saving it from the scrapyard.  If its fuel efficiency is, say, 15 L/100 km
(~16MPG), at 34 MJ/L, that amounts to 5.1 MJ/km.  Over 5 years: 127 GJ
transport energy, which is its total energy consumption.

 As a very rough guide, the manufacture of 1 kg of metal or plastic requires
about 100 MJ to produce.  For a hybrid, 1400 kg of car would therefore
represent 140 GJ of "embodied energy"  The transportational energy would
require 4.3 L/100km (60MPG) at 34 MJ/L = 1.5 MJ/km.  Over 5 years: 37 GJ.
Over 5 years, that's a total of 177 GJ of energy, although you've still got
a decent car at the other end.

As for the bike, well, it requires maybe 2 GJ to manufacture, if that.  The
transport costs... are tricky.  Sure, you need to eat more when you ride,
but you do get healthier...

 Other factors: older vehicles and poorly maintainned vehicles produce FAR
more "urban air pollution" than more modern vehicles with the equivalent
fuel economy.

Another consideration for the bike is that when it rains, they get wet.
Which is not so tragic, but it seems to turn a lot of wimps off cycling.

Cost LCA:

Cost = fuel costs + depreciation over 5 years + maintenance (inc: rego,
insurance) + the cost of your time.  Again, the bike is tricky, because it
also saves you from having to go to the gym...

But just comparing Ol' G & New H (in A$):

Ol'Guzzler: Cost = $7500 Fuel (25000km* 15 L/100km * $2/L) + $500
depreciation (cheap--> scrap) + $4000 maintenance (500/y repairs, 300/y
insurance) + time = $12,000 + time

New Hybrid: Cost = $2150 Fuel (25000km* 4.3 L/100km * $2/L) + $15,000
depreciation + $3000 maintenance (250/y repairs, 350/y insurance) + time =
$20,150 + time

Therefore, the new Hybrid is significantly more expensive over 5 years, but
certainly not "20-40x cheaper than a new 'green' car".


Well, I just like to look at the whole picture.  People who drive a lot of
miles should definitely be looking at leaner or greener cars, not only for
environmental reasons, but for cost as well.

However, don't look at the options as a dichotomy.  For a moderate-level
driver in a non urban environment, an older small vehicle might be
appropriate.  Then there's public transport - it's not only for the poor and
disabled, despite what some people may think.  Moving or changing jobs is
also an (extreme) option!

So... use "the right tool for the right job"

-- Olie
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