Sunday, December 9, 2012

Why not drive 55?

A couple months ago we saw where Texas raised the speed limit on an interstate to 85 mph.

Now I've driven through the Great Plains. I get it. I know there's nothing but farms and ranches as far as the eye can see. I get it that driving 30 mph over 55 gets you to point B 50% faster.

The question is at what cost? If you set the way back machine to 1983 you can meet Klaus. As you might assume Klaus is a German name and it's the name of my friend's father when they were visiting from Germany. One of the things that I remember quite clearly when he discussed driving from Florida to Kansas was that he wasn't tired at the end of the day. He said when he drove the Autobahn in Germany for any extended time he was exhausted when he was finished because of the stress travelling at high speeds caused.

Keep going back in the way back machine to the Carter Presidency and the establishment of the 55 mph interstate speed limit. The goal at the time was to reduce the amount of gasoline required for extended highway travel. The flipside of this radical effort was reduction in traffic fatalities.

Keep the way back machine going until you reach 1945. At the end of World War II we find that the United States military had enough tires in stock for the war to last another TEN years. Why did we have such a massive surplus of tires? Because people were driving less. Why were they driving less? Because gasoline was rationed. If you examine the WWII rationing of gasoline you find that the reason it was limited wasn't to keep the gasoline supply available for the military. It did accomplish that goal but it was a side effect. The goal was to reduce the dependence on external sources of rubber required for the tires. The American oil supply at that time was almost 100% domestic but rubber was an import and therefore threatened by the ongoing conflict.

As we return to the 21st century we are no longer troubled by the availability of rubber for tires. However, gasoline has become, oh..shall we say, just a little pricey. Now we need a return of lower speeds not to save rubber or even lives because technology is helping with that but we need to reduce our dependence on not only domestic oil but we need to dramatically reduce our foreign oil imports even if that import is from the Canadian tar sands.

To paraphrase Necron99 in Wizards - oil bad, go around

Signing off for today
Try reading a book, it's a novel experience.

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