July 15, 2006
Tombers considers the energy crisis while dodging the rain
Heat and humidity descended upon New York City with the fetid
embrace of the summer gods, pressing breath and water out
of the body. Dark storm clouds gathered and thunder rolled
across the heavens; the skies opened.
It was hot and smudgy; days that spoke to the theory of global
warming. It was almost possible to feel dirt particles in
In search of a respite, I swung into the Acela Club, between
meetings and before I could check into my hotel. I slumped
into one of the chairs, my eyes wandering to the television,
spewing out a flow of bad news from the mid-east.
As the commercial break came I prepared to sally forth into
the oppressive steam bath of the city. The commercial caught
my eye. A twenty something All American Male type was buying
tofu steaks at the supermarket. Following on the belt were
ribs and steaks and all things barbeque. The All American
Male looked lustfully at the steaks, bolting straight from
the supermarket to a HUMMER dealership. With a self-satisfied
smile, he accepted keys to his new HUMMER. The tagline came
up: Restore Your Manhood.
I blinked. Surely I was dreaming. This struck me as perhaps
the single most offensive ad I have ever seen on television.
All we have to do is buy a vehicle that consumes too much
metal being made and needs too much gasoline to drive, a vehicle
completely unfit for the ordinary needs of any man not in
the military and we will HAVE OUR MANHOOD RESTORED!
Do most All American Males feel they need to have their manhood
All day I found myself shaking my head. That night, I went
to a screening sponsored by the PGA, a documentary entitled:
WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? Its the saga of the much
heralded Electric Vehicle launched in response to a California
edict that a certain percentage of vehicles produced by car
companies have zero emissions by a certain date.
A flurry of activity followed, which produced the very futuristic,
EV from GM [which means this vehicle was a cousin of the HUMMER].
It was experiment that ended ingloriously, celebrated by
a faux funeral in Hollywood, mourned by an impassioned group
of people protesting the cessation of the EV program. People
wanted to keep them, love them, let themselves wear themselves
out but the car companies said no, promising they would be
sent to happy homes, like car museums and training schools
only to send them to be crushed to scrap.
The film blamed many for the death of the electric car: the
car companies, the California Air Resource Board that decided
to repeal the rule demanding zero emission vehicles [after
being sued by the car companies] and other various and sundry
One interesting point made was that EVs qualified for a tax
rebate of about $4000.00 while it was possible to get a rebate
on a vehicle of the nature of the HUMMER that could be as
much as a $100,000.
In the end the electric car, a noble experiment, was killed
by all of us, including myself, because we didnt pay
attention. Weve had an abysmal ability to wean ourselves
from the combustion engine and we have an abysmal record of
pursuing energy independence, allowing available technology,
it almost seems, to slip through our fingers while we quest
after the next hottest thing. For autos it is currently hydrogen
fuel cells, a technology that might be decades off from successful
implementation while better electric batteries have been constantly
appearing since the first EV slipped off its small assembly
I am not sure I can say who is right or wrong in the matter
of the electric car; I can tell you it seems an opportunity
My personal hero in the film was the scientist who kept inventing
better batteries, an aging man with an aging wife who have
spent their lives using science to solve problems, an example
we had best follow if we are not going to allow opportunities
to solve the energy crisis slip away from us.
Anyone need their manhood restored? Or a planet on which