I had an epiphany this weekend. Our now infamous EPA administrator, Al Armendariz, isn’t just crucifying oil and gas firms, but by extension, through the EPA looking to justify it’s existence, is crucifying America. My small example is my Ford F350. This is a 2008 model with a 6.4 liter diesel engine. Much to my chagrin, I found that the fuel economy stank. I got about 10 mpg in the city and 12.5 mpg on the highway (maybe 14 mpg with a tailwind). I grumbled but didn’t do much for fear of voiding the warranty.
But, as diesel fuel crept over four bucks a gallon (an outrage since this is supposed to be kerosene, for heaven’s sake), I had to do something. That something was removing the factory tail pipe with the particulate filter and replacing it with a 5 inch steel pipe, chipping the engine (to essentially tell the controller chip that the filter is no longer there) and a new air intake.
With the back pressure gone and the chip no longer feeding fuel to the particulate filter (to burn off the particulate) the performance changes were phenomenal. My city mph went to 14-15 mpg. This is factoring in the fact that my daily commute from my office to my home involves coming up about a 1000 feet in elevation.
My trip, with my family, from Casper to Salt Lake City showed performance changes that were beyond subtle. Going west on I-80 to SLC, I got an average of 17 mpg over the 280 or so miles from Rawlins to SLC. This was bucking headwinds that were gusting up to 50 mph. On my way back, I got an average of about 21 mpg on that same 280 mile run. This return included an hour long 2500 foot climb in elevation as I drove out of SLC to Evanston, Wyoming (about 4200 feet and 6700 feet above sea level, respectively). Even during the climb out, I was averaging 18 mpg.
Performance was markedly improved as well. No longer a hesitation when I pushed the accelerator. Useful when you need to clear a congested intersection.
These above numbers represented increases in fuel economy on the order of 30 to 40 percent. This wasn’t trying to parse some subtle changes as to how many parts per billion of some ‘pollutant’ may cause some statically significant change in pulmonary disease in left handed South Sea Islanders living fifty miles from a power station.
Plain as day, plain as the fact that I was stopping less for fuel. And, plain as the fact that, no, I wasn’t pouring black smoke out of my tailpipe. All in an eight cylinder diesel truck with the aerodynamics of a barn door. Here’s an apples to oranges comparison with the Chevy Volt, which get 37 mpg on gasoline. 21 mpg is not 37 mpg; but it start to nibble at the heels of 37 mpg for a whole lot more vehicle (a trip to Home Depot for lumber combined with a big stock up at Sam’s Club).
And, all of this by removing a performance robbing, fuel economy robbing, tail pipe and particulate filter.
Which brings us to the big question. For the last thirty or so years, we have, in the name of environmental purity, dumped substandard products on the American public. We have cars of increasing complexity that are more expensive to design, manufacture, purchase, operate and maintain. A car like the Datsun 210 got 50 mpg on a carburatored 1.4 liter engine and like the VW bug was cheap to own and operate. It was the car that would allow you to get a start in life by providing you the necessary transportation to your first job. These cars are gone due to EPA regulations; and no, the new bug isn’t the VW bug of yore. Moreover, this destruction of simple, workable productions has extended into just about every facet of American life.
We have a vast bureaucracy that has a mandate to require the most advanced technology that creates a constantly shifting set of rules without any regard to true cost/benefit analysis. Nor, any attention to the law of diminishing returns. Pollution was indeed worse in the 60’s and 70’s when the EPA first arrived on the scene. But, today? With a bulk of the pollution cleaned up, we have an agency in search of a mission. In search of a rationale for continued existence. And, because of the open-ended nature of the legislation that enables these agencies’ mandates, they forever gin up all sorts of new monster to slay with every costly regulations.
We add in a political agenda to target a particular industry, we now have a weapon, outside the protections of due process as secured by the Bill of Rights, to run a given politician’s enemies into the ground or out of business. Unless you can bear the expense of very expensive legal help.
In many respects, the EPA’s job was done by about 1980. Since then, we’ve had regulation by every crackpot crisis that some environmentalist dreams up. Acid rain (remember that?), Alar, and of course, the all purpose Global Warming. And, what do you have for all of that besides substandard and unnecessarily expensive products. Take you tail pipe off. There’s a whole cottage industry in people modifying their trucks to get some semblance of decent performance and economy.
And, while we’re taking about crucifying your favorite enemies, why don’t we go totally Roman on the EPA (and wide swaths of the federal bureaucracy to boot). How about heads on a platter a la John the Baptist? Maybe Michelle can play the part of Salome. How about Mr. Armendariz. Ms. Jackson of the EPA. Secretary Chu for his brilliant venture capitalism on the taxpayer dime? How about the Roman tradition of decimation? That’s where, if a particular military unit did particularly badly on the battlefield, every tenth man was killed as punishment. Think of it, an instantaneous ten percent reduction in the Federal workforce. Oh! I’m sorry, just like Mr. Armendariz crucifying, it’s just an overwrought analogy.