VOTE

Great editorial from the Carrboro Citizen that sums up my frustration with low voter turn out in local elections. This is my favorite part:

Small wonder that we have such a high percentage of cranky, ill-mannered and woefully under-informed non-participants. For more than two decades, they’ve been spoon-fed Ronald Reagan’s toxic tonic that government is inherently bad — always the problem and not the solution. All along, there’s been almost nothing offered to counter that argument, because it’s just not cool to point out that things like roads, public transit, schools and institutions like the university and its hospital came about because of a belief in the idea of government, and that by working together we could make a better world.

My Local Energy Journey 2

Part Two

I had a lot of specific requirements for my choice of diesel vehicle. I’m sure most people will too.

Affordable
As I mentioned earlier we don’t have a bunch money right now. So I had to find a way to sell my truck and use the money for another vehicle. It was pretty hard. I didn’t expect to get much for the Chevy S10. Blue Book value was rather low. The asking price for most old Mercedes I saw where $3,000 and up. But some how I bought a car for exactly how much I sold the Chevy. I got a deal. But I think the prices people ask for old Mercedes are several thousand more than most will sell for. So the lesson is, ALWAYS HAGGLE.

Four doors
The truck had two doors and a bench seat. Any new car had to have four doors. Mainly because we need another vehicle to transport our son. You can put a child car seat in a two door… but its rough. Most safety experts suggest children ride in the back seat.

Safe
Obviously when you transport children you want a safe car. Lots of different options can fulfill this goal. But all that I’ve seen and read about Mercedes is that they’re some of the safest cars around. Older vehicles are made with much more steel and are heavier. A big plus in my book. Wish I could afford a newer car with better safety ratings but… you make due with what you have.

Easy to Work On
I’m mechanically inclined. It’s been awhile since I’ve worked on a car with passion. But I have a pile of tools. Mostly given to me by famliy members.

Recently I’ve done basic maintenance on vehicles out of necessity. So I wanted a car that would be fun to work on. This way I don’t get super frustrated right away trying to figure stuff out. From what I’ve read and heard the ’80s Mercedes are mostly easy and fun. Though some smart folks remind me how hard transmition and suspension work is. Something I may leave to the pros.

Will Run Biodiesel
This requirement was a big one. It narrowed the list down significantly. Here in the US there are only a small percentage of diesel cars with four doors. Mainly VWs and Mercedes with lots of two door trucks and a few other foreign cars. Because there are lots of these vehicles running there are tons of after market parts. I chose the Mercedes because of all the positive talk about them. We’ve owned several VWs, and love them, but just couldn’t find one we could afford.

Other Issues
We had to work a bit to get over the image of wealth and excess that the Mercedes-Benz brand exudes. But in the end I see this car as a tool. One that was built extremely well. Plus most people who want to flaunt their wealth these days don’t drive old diesels. It’ll be pretty obvious to most we’re “hippies trying to save the environment and stuff” with our biodiesel car. 🙂

(Part One of this series can be found here.)

My Local Energy Journey

Intro

I want to change not just the quantity of energy I consume but the kind. Both where it comes from and how it effects our planet.

Most of the oil we consume in the United States is imported. These assets are controlled by multi-national corporations. Their primary concern is profit. They wage wars and kill others to obtain it. By reducing my consumption of petroleum I’m one less consumer and supporter of big Corporate oil and their wars for profit.

I want to use fuel made locally.

First because the primary concern of our local producers is the well-being of our community. Second because money spent locally is better for my family and I. Michael Shuman wrote, “A growing body of evidence suggests that every dollar spent at a locally owned business generates two to four times more economic benefit—measured in income, wealth, jobs, and tax revenue—than a dollar spent at a globally owned business. ” Its called the Local Multiplier effect.

When engines burn gasoline and petro-diesel it releases carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, particulates like soot, and nitrogen into the air. Not only does this effect global climate change it creates pollution which toxins can harm us.

So what can we do? How does one consume less oil? There are many ways. You can walk more, take the bus, and ride a bike. I do all this but it wasn’t enough for me. I needed a way to go long distance too. I’ll admit convenience was a factor as well. Having your own vehicle gives you a great amount of choice.

When I discovered our local biodiesel manufacturer Piedmont Biofuels it became obvious what to do. Buy biodiesel. Fuel produced locally with natural materials.

How do you do this? Get a diesel automobile.

I’m aware that diesels can be dirty. But when biodiesel is used the pollution output is greatly reduced. Unfortunately the new “clean” VW Turbo Diesels are out of my price range. The only source of cash I had at the time was locked up in another vehicle. Because the truck is old I knew I couldn’t get a lot of money for it. I did a bunch of research and legwork to find another car I could afford. Luckily I got enough from the sale of the gas burner to get a diesel. Reusing an old vehicle is more sustainable too. It means less energy used in manufacture and fewer parts will goto a junkyard.

A wise friend told me that when contemplating great challenges to concentrate on winning the little battles instead of the entire war. Despite the gross war analogy it was apt. So I figure that changing one bad habit at a time is a good thing. I’m applying this idea of incremental change to what kind of energy I use. That means consuming less. This week I took a big step in that direction. Its going to take time. But I hope you will learn from my journey to consume local energy.

Part One

This week I sold my 1988 Chevy S10 Truck. It was really hard to part with. I choked up a bit as I took my last ride in it. Like many other Americans I equate real emotion with inanimate objects. This could help explain why Americans love to drive.

In my case this vehicle was a gift from my late Grandfather. He lent it to me many times before I inherited it after he died. He loved this truck. I loved driving it because it reminded me of him. So many positive memories riding in the truck with him. I hope he understands my choices today.

Just so you, and my family reading this know, I did not cast away this gift lightly with out purpose. I found a great local friend to purchase the truck. It was almost a accident that we made the deal. But I know she will really benefit from the truck. It will assist her in so many practical ways. That is the spirit of its utility. Something my Grandfather would of appreciated.

The bottom line is I got exactly enough money from the sale of the truck to purchase another vehicle. A 1981 Mercedes 240D. in Part Two I’ll explain why I specifically chose this model of car.