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Hybrids, Hype, And Science

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Here are a couple links on hybrid cars and the like:http://ludens.cl/philo/electric.htmlhttp://www.motorists.com/ma/1100027274.htmlHybrid cars are an improvement and a step in what most would consider "the right direction." However, they are not as eco friendly as what they appear on the surface. If you are really concerned about lowering pollutants, there are better things to start with. 1. Reduced use of power plants burning crude oil (e.g. large ocean boats). Large expensive transportation vehicles are not turned over as quickly as cars, therefore the emissions technology is very much outdated compared with cars. Not to mention one large tanker burns as much crude oil as 20k cars burn in a year (and cars burn the cleaner refined stuff).2. Don't own a large vessel? Stop using or reduce use of any small engine which requires you to mix gasoline and oil. Those things are significantly worse than any car out there.I readily admit that I have faith in the free market economy. Money is a huge motivator. The fact is, there just is not an alternative fuel source that is as good as fuel. That said, as supply goes down and demand increases, more money is focused on ways of meeting that demand. This is currently evident by the recent surge in hybrid cars and money (both from the government and large energy corporations) being spent on research/development of alternative fuel sources. No one has the answer yet, but there are things in the works. Cars have become more efficient across the board and new technology is emerging everyday. Current solar, wind, and hydro power are all incapable of meeting current energy needs (not to mention come with there own environmental hazards), but better technology may make them more efficient in the future. If I was a betting man (and I am), I would buy stock in nuclear fusion as the primary power plant of the future. While it was considered impossible in the energy crisis of the 70's (on a side note, read some of the earth ending predictions back then), recent research has shown it may be more plausible than originally imagined. New studies working with plasma (needed for generating the conditions for fusion) have developed improved methods for controlling the substance. While any power plant is still many years away, this is the best potential source of large scale energy production I have heard of. Unfortunately the US is not funding the research for the power plant, however many European countries are and projections for a prototype power plant range for around 2050.Which brings me to my final points. Supposedly we are dead by 2050 and this won't work. Well, I don't buy it. Here is the thing. I am a scientist and I do think the scientific method is the superior mode of inquiry for questions about the natural world. However, there is a blatant shortcoming in the scientific community as a whole. That is, there is a conflict of interest. Science has historically had a very difficult time talking to the general public. Many times the complicated nature of some research combined with scientific personalities does not lead to good public understanding. The problem is two-fold. One, is that science needs to improve its ability to relate findings to the public in a truthful, but understandable, way. This is not done nearly enough. The second problem stems from the first. Scientists get their money from either the government or private interests. Very few of these grants are given for the sake of science. The gross majority are given with the intent that the research will benefit humans in some way. So science has to sell itself, which often means that research speculation and interpretations are emphasized more than the actual results of the research. Furthermore, the more the research can be hyped, the more research dollars, and the less the "true science" is reported. This leads to politicians and the general public to have perceptions that are different from the actuality. So where do I stand? Throw out anything you hear about the apocalypse (unless it involves the sun exploding millions of years from now). Realize these are likely real issues that should be considered. However, the market economy will work things out long before oil runs dry, all water becomes undrinkable, and life vanishes. Daniel, you want to make a bet? I bet you $100 that you can not predict today the weather in Detroit MI February 10th 2008 within 1 degree Fahrenheit. Consult all the experts you want. Then consider global warming is claiming to predict the weather 50-100 years later within fractions of a degree. Hope this is informative,jz

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