Lately, I’ve received a lot of e-mails from readers asking about the environment and the effect of internal combustion engine exhaust on our climate.
One factor is the effect of CO2 on the environment. My understanding is that CO2 is relatively harmless and naturally occurring.
To try to better understand the latest concern about CO2, I contacted a couple of “experts” who work in the environmental area. I found the answers fascinating and wanted to share them, but when I asked permission to quote them, the answer was absolutely NOT. When I asked why, they answered that they are in the research business and do not want to risk losing a grant from either side of the problem.
In other words, “what answer do you want?” has replaced “what is the correct answer?” as the guide for doing research.
To give you an example how this works, let’s say that the ethanol people give me a huge grant to show that fuel containing ethanol gives as good or better fuel mileage than straight hydrocarbon motor gas. An auto engine operates on the energy content of the fuel that you feed it, so ethanol at 74,000 BTUs per gallon is going to give you a lower mpg than a straight hydrocarbon fuel that contains 110,000 BTUs per gallon. This means a 10% blend of ethanol will, under normal driving conditions, give about 3.3% lower mpg than a straight hydrocarbon fuel.
How would I earn that big grant money? Fuels with 10% ethanol usually have a higher octane rating, so I would find vehicles that require high octane and knock on regular 87 octane fuel. I would then measure the fuel economy of these cars under high-load, high-speed conditions where they experience knocking and the knock sensor kicks in and retards the ignition’s timing. This would reduce the mpg of the cars on the straight hydrocarbon fuel and advance the timing and improve the mpg for the cars on the ethanol-containing fuel. Voila! The people paying me are happy and I have a big pot full of money — never mind that almost no one in the real world will get better mileage.
This problem goes deeper in our society than just research grants. It is especially prevalent in big business and governments. Say you work for a large auto manufacturer and the president tells you the company needs to build a larger SUV so he can tow his 20,000-lb. boat up to the lake. He would like you to do the market research to show that this vehicle will sell well in today’s market.
You have a choice: You can tell him the truth — that this is a bad idea and you will not be able to give them away at any price — or you can tell him it is a great idea and that the company should start working on it immediately.