Saturday, May 21, 2011

Hey, You, Get Outta My Lane!

I think I'm having too much fun writing this piece. It's not seemly to enjoy the discomfort of so many of my fellow Californians. But on the other hand, nah-nah-nah-naaaaah-nah. All the Prius owners have to join the rest of us peasants in the regular freeway lanes. The Department of Motor Vehicles finally pulled the carpool lanes out from under them.

This is irony piled on irony. Back in the seventies, under the leadership of then-governor Jerry Brown, the state government decided that it would create what it called "diamond lanes." Those foolish enough to commute to work with less than two people in the car had to drive in the regular freeway lanes, while those conscientious conservers of energy who carpooled got to move into the less-congested and therefore speedier diamond lanes.

About the only thing it actually accomplished was to increase state revenues because frustrated solo drivers sitting on a freeway that looked like a thirty mile long thin parking lot would pull into the diamond lanes to avoid being late to work. The fine for entering a diamond lane was higher than that for excessive speed, and about the same as those for vehicular manslaughter (well, I did exaggerate a little on that). Some diamond lanes were additions to existing lanes, which was at least somewhat reasonable. But many were simply traditional "all traffic" lanes that were striped and painted with the diamond label. Thus, already-congested freeways were slowed considerably. It was estimated at the time that more gasoline was wasted sitting unmoving on the freeway than was saved by carpooling and the diamond lanes.

Move forward about three decades, and the diamond lanes were opened up for those who were willing to spend big bucks for a low-powered, truly ugly car that doesn't use gasoline exclusively. A single driver in a Prius (and later all its imitators) could get that cute sticker that announced to the world "I'm a rich yuppie who can afford a car solely for commuting, and because I am eco-conscious and you're not, I get to drive past your snail's pace driving at sixty-five miles per hour, unimpeded by fools like you." Percentages of car-poolers haven't increased appreciably in thirty years, but there have been a lot more cars in those diamond lanes.

Jerry Brown is once again governor of California. Among his early-term Moonbeam actions is the termination of the diamond lane privileges for people driving those gas-guzzling Priuses (and other hybrids). The yellow sticker will no longer let you stick out your tongue at the peasants driving traditional vehicles. You must now purchase a car which is entitled to a white sticker. Those will be given out only to those who purchase all-electric or natural gas-powered vehicles. I'm going to rush out and buy a Tesla just so I can put a big, ugly sticker on the overpriced paint job. That way, when it runs out of juice ten miles short of my destination, it will be easy to describe to the Triple-A driver. "It's the bright red sports car with the big ugly white sticker parked five miles the other side of the post office."

Believe it or not, 10,000 of those white stickers have already been issued by DMV. But then, this is California. The sticker says basically the same thing as the yellow one. It should actually say something like "do you know how much coal and oil it took to produce the electricity that charged this car?" Or maybe "the production of this car required enough mercury to guarantee that all your grandchildren will have two heads, at least."

The original yellow sticker was supposed to be good only for the years 2005-2007, but the DMV and CalTrans kept extending the expiration dates. Owners of the vehicles figured their lofty status would go on pretty much forever. They didn't reckon with the all-new and improved Jerry Brown and the Green Weenies he brought into office with him. Now they'll have to turn in their overpriced hybrids and switch to some really overpriced vehicles. But then most of them are the rich yuppies who can afford to switch with no harm to their bank accounts. I just feel sorry for the few who bought the cars simply because they truly are fuel-efficient (at least at the gas pump).

Smug Californians account for about one-quarter of all hybrid sales in America. The numbers went down a bit last year, but the current government-created spike in gas prices have sped the numbers up. I'm guessing that means that people who can easily afford $5.00/gallon gas will lift their eco-friendly chins and buy one-quarter of the total production of all-electric and natural gas-powered vehicles. Their badge of honor will be the white sticker. And they are promised their special diamond lane privileges until 2015 (not counting the likely extensions).

Personally, I'm having some of my engineer friends design a solar-powered car that gets 1,000,000 miles to the gallon. It will hold two passengers for carpool purposes, and will be about the size of two Greyhound buses (if you include the panels). Top speed is expected to be about 30 mph, but that shouldn't prevent me from getting a diamond lane sticker, should it? Our biggest problem right now is dealing with the aerodynamics. Aimed for best effect, the panels tend to turn the car into a helicopter-like vehicle with no controls. We're bogged down right now with the engineering details, and we're still waiting for our federal stimulus funds.


Tehachapi Tom said...

The nose thumbers are truly a special lot. All ROI calculations show the Prius is not viable from an economic stand point. That leaves only the green feel good as payback.

I looked into an all electric solar powered vehicle. Your engineer friends are right on, you will need a bus sized or larger area to place enough panels. but even more problems arise.
With approximately 100 tons of star dust falling to earth each day there is an additional issue here in Tehachapi. There must be an atmospheric vortex over the Tehachapi area as dust coats every thing each day such that daily washing of the panels would mandatory. To maintain optimum output, not keeping the panels clean would leave you short of your destination before sunset.
This would create a usage of water that would cost more than the cost total for gasoline to run a large SUV, that reads big Suburban.
Bottom line until some one finds a way to defy the laws of physics we will need some form of distillate fuel to move people and stuff.
Moonbeam and bo with their tree hugging, green weenie,illogical approaches are just stupidity gone to seed.

Fun read you put out for us today

T-Rav said...

Personally, I think a helicopter-car would be an awesome invention, no matter its size or speed. Probably wouldn't work too well in places like Seattle, though, if it's solar powered.

Also, if California is doing anything to reverse environmental legislation, then maybe the Rapture really is upon us.

Unknown said...

Tehachapi Tom: Ain't we Californians lucky? Oh, and I drive a Suburban, all of eight glorious miles per gallon (or something like that). The grandkids call it the Sperban.

Unknown said...

T_Rav: I'm keeping the comments short today. After all, by noon it won't make any difference anyway. I'm trying to pick out which cloud is mine. LOL

StanH said...

Great read Lawhawk, and great thinking with your solar vehicle. We are working on the “Transcendental Peace & Love Vehicle, aka TM350.” The vehicle has no engine, emits no evil exhaust, and puts out peace, love, and harmony as you travel. The way it works the passengers all sit in a circle, (the vehicle doesn’t have normal forward facing seating) …in the vehicle going, “umm-umm-umm-umm,” and as we all achieve nirvana, the vehicle will take us anywhere we want to go. The White House, and other democrats have taken such an interest in our revolutionary new concept, that we’ve applied for $1.7Million, and obtained, $1.7Billion in research funds from the federal government. My wife, and I, along with our crack research team have purchased a small island for further research, serenity, and development. May peace and love be with you…umm-umm-umm…

Unknown said...

Stan: Didn't we used to call that a "soapbox racer?" Let me know when you have your island in order so I can come and visit. You'll have to give me plenty of lead time, since my solar vehicle takes about three months to cross the continent, assuming there's enough room on the highways.

Unknown said...

Well--I'm headed out to the big city for food shopping (Lake Isabella, pop. +/- 4,000). Compared to Caliente, it's the big city, whereas Bakersfield is the metropolis. See y'all in a couple of hours.

Tennessee Jed said...

I couldn't keep the word "insanity" from flashing before my eyes as I read this. It is a microcosm of all that makes liberal weenies so obnoxious.

BevfromNYC said...

I hope you get back safely Law, but just in case you get "raptured up", pull over to the side of the highway and please buy some cupcakes or cookies or something while you're at the store, so when we have to use your car in the Post Apocalyptic New World Order, we'll have something to eat. Oh and could you be so kind as to fill up the tank too!

Unknown said...

Tennessee: And as we all know, crazy people don't know they're crazy. That makes California the world's largest loony bin.

Unknown said...

Bev: I never made it. Had to unhitch the horses and get ready for the grandkids to show up. I'll make the trek tomorrow instead. On the other hand, since I'll have manna from heaven from here on out, I guess I don't need to go shopping.

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