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E-M:/ Fuels & Vehicles

Enviro-Mich message from "Thom Peterson" <PetersonT@grps.k12.mi.us>

Here's a reply to Jeff Gearhart and Anne Cox: Two different questions, one suggested resource. 

For Jeff, I am not entirely sure that ethanol is a sustainable fuel. Recycled french fry oil might be a good biodiesel, but beyond that it seems like we need to feed the people before we feed the vehicles. It has been a while since I read it, but Deborah Gordon's book, Steering a New Course: Transportation, Energy, and the Environment, (Union of Concerned Scientists, 1991), might shed some light on this issue. Apart from that, I would definitely like to see a rivalry between MSU and UM over campus energy efficiency & sustainability!

For Anne, Gordon's book had an interesting comparison of the relative safety of a Volkswagen Rabbit and a Ford Crown Victoria. Granted, these were 1979 models, but in this case bigger was not safer. Your point, however, takes the auto safety question to another level; namely, how safe is the vehicle for other travelers. Bike and pedestrian advocates have been trying to make this case for several years. I think a large portion of traffic fatalities are not drivers or passengers, but virtually all traffic safety money in Michigan goes to protecting the driver & passengers. Providing a safe coccoon for an unsafe driver could make the roads LESS safe for everybody else. 

I believe SUV drivers feel safer on the road with big trucks--and that might be related to sitting higher, having a better view and presumably being more visible. Of course, riding on a bus is also higher and more visible. Another option would be to ship more freight by rail and reducing the presence of the big trucks; another option would be to develop stronger local economies in order to ship less and drive less, reducing the VMT for trucks and cars. 

Cutting insurance rates--or eliminating sales tax on gasoline, such as has been done recently in Illinois--sends the wrong economic signal. We need  more options and few subsidies for doing the wrong thing.

Thom Peterson

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