Friday, October 24, 2008

Will vehicles get lighter?

What does one of the Marx Brothers have to do with green? Back in the 50s Groucho had the TV show called “You Bet Your Life”. These past weeks on Wall Street could also be called you bet your life. I have received several emails about the outcome of investing $1,000 in various shares or simply buying beer with the $1,000. The emails claim that had you bought $1,000 of beers and drank the beers you would still have $214 in left over aluminum in the empty cans. Had you bought Bear Sterns or Lehman Brothers you would have boopkas.

I did a quick calculation of the mass of left over aluminum had you bought beers with your $1,000. Let’s assume one can buy the least expensive beer for $6 per case of 12 cans. The CRV per can is 5 cents hence the 12 cans would have a CRV of 60 cents or 10% of the cost of the beer. Excluding sales tax one can therefore expect to receive $100 for the recycling of $1,000 expended on beer. A minus 90% return these days is actually preferred to a minus 100% return.

Last week I bet my own life by having major surgery to remove my prostate. Thankfully the outcome was successful and the prognosis is excellent. I am reminded on Charles Dickens and his book “A Tale Of Two Cities” in which Dickens writes his famous lines that “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. While recovering from the surgery and bearing the pain under medication I watched the TV in my hospital room and seeing how the financial world was falling apart, I was thinking about these words. For me the past week was the best of times, but for most it was the worst of times. But for all of us we still have the hope that there will be better times ahead. From a sustainability perspective the global economic slowdown will lower the rate of combustion of fossil fuels and hence will lessen the emissions of carbon dioxide. Conversely there may be much less capital available to retool the power generation sector and the vehicle fleet. I still believe we are on the path to using less fuel no matter what the level of the Dow Jones Index.

Remembering that mid grade gasoline prices peaked here at the 76 station on Tiburon Blvd. on June 19 at $4.79, I was pleased to see the price of the same gasoline was $3.63 yesterday. No doubt thanks to economic slowdown and us all being greener we will “enjoy” gasoline for less than $3 per gallon soon. I am an optimist and believe the future will be better than the present and the past. The US government will need to adopt energy efficiency policies. Both candidates in the final presidential debate agreed we will be weaned off oil imported from unfriendly countries within ten years. Hopefully we will not simply buy more oil from friendly countries. My prognostication is that we will be using 20% less oil in 2018 as by then many of the SUVs will have been recycled and the fleet of vehicles will be 1,000 pounds lighter on average. I guess one could use the beer investment analogy and calculate the residual value of the steel in a Hummer. Maybe the Governator will ask for legislation to set a CRV for his fleet of Hummers. In this case I would gladly support legislation to give SUV owners $1,000 to take their monsters to the junk yard. We could even have the duck come down with the $1,000 when the owner says the magic green word.

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