I want this car, and I want it now!

Imagine that the auto industry had the capital (and would use it) to build cars that customers could afford - cars that don't run on the overpriced gasoline that the customers cannot afford. Imagine a world where we could save our auto industry without further destroying our habitable climate!

I am not an expert on either the car industry or even alternative vehicles; although I peruse them almost daily on the Internet, looking for my future wheels. I'm going to take the first opportunity to lose my current guzzler and stop pouring my money into Exxon-Mobile's record-breaking quarterly bonuses. For once I'd like to see the oil companies in financial trouble... instead of everybody else.


And so after much nosing around online, THIS is the car that I want. The only reason I can fathom that this car isn't already on the roads... is the power of the Big Oil.

Detroit Automakers, Paulson, Congress, President-Elect Obama, and whoever else is involved in the process of saving the American Auto Industry: If you build these, we will come.

 Meet the CAV, or Compressed Air Car.

An air-powered car? It may be available sooner than you think at a price tag that will hardly be a budget buster. The vehicle may not run like a speed racer on back road highways, but developer Zero Pollution Motors is betting consumers will be willing to fork over $20,000 for a vehicle that can motor around all day on nothing but air and a splash of salad oil, alcohol or possibly a pint of gasoline.

The expertise needed to build a compressed air car, or CAV, is not rocket science, either. Years-old, off-the-shelf technology uses compressed air to drive old-fashioned car engine pistons instead of combusting gas or diesel fuel to create a burst of air to do the same thing. Indian carmaker Tata has no qualms about the technology. It has already bought the rights to make the car for the huge Indian market.

The air car can tool along at a top speed of 35 mph for some 60 miles or so on a tank of compressed air, a sufficient distance for 80% of consumers to commute to work and back and complete daily chores.

On highways, the CAV can cruise at interstate speeds for nearly 800 miles with a small motor that compresses outside air to keep the tank filled. The motor isn't finicky about fuel. It will burn gasoline or diesel as well as biodiesel, ethanol or vegetable oil.

This car leaves the highest-mpg vehicles you can buy right now in the dust. Even if it used only regular gasoline, the air car would average 106 mpg, more than double today's fuel sipping champ, the Toyota Prius. The air tank also can be refilled when it's not in use by being plugged into a wall socket and recharged with electricity as the motor compresses air.

This car does it all! It can run in town, on the highway (at highway speeds,) there are larger models that can carry multiple passengers; and I'm guessing literally everybody can find a pint of vegetable oil in a pinch. For God's sake -- you can carry a bottle in your trunk.

As I see it, we have three problems; three issues that desperately need immediate solutions -- with the third being the roadblock that we can't seem to get over:

1. Global Warming. We have to cut our CO emissions from the current 385 ppm [parts per million] to 350 ppm if we can expect to have any shot at retaining a sustainable planet. As Bill McKibbon recently suggested:

Barack Obama won an historic victory this week, and with it the right to take office under the most difficult circumstances since Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Maybe more difficult, because while both FDR and Obama had financial meltdowns to deal with, Obama also faces the meltdown meltdown - the rapid disintegration of the planet's climate system that threatens to challenge the very foundations of our civilization.

Do you think that sounds melodramatic? Let me give it to you from the abstract of a scientific paper written earlier this year by one of the people who now work for Mr. Obama, NASA scientist James Hansen. "If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleo-climate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 [in the atmosphere] will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm [parts per million] to at most 350 ppm." In other words, if we keep increasing carbon any longer, the earth itself will make our efforts moot.

2. The Auto Industry is on the ropes. They are still building cars that nobody wants to buy, or can't afford to buy as consumers are losing jobs, homes and drowning in health care costs. If the Auto Industry can get financing contingent on their retooling their factories to produce these little gems or electric cars; and if federal agencies, police departments, politicians, taxi services and limo companies all get tax breaks for buying alternative energy vehicles... the auto industry will start seeing a profit before we even pull out our check books. And we will buy them. Yes we will. Imagine not having to ever again pay for gas? Screw you Exxon -- you, your 'drill here drill now, and your record-busting profits.

3. The Oil Industry won't let go. We are still ruled by two major corporate forces: The Military Industrial and Big Oil. They won't be happy about this move to green... so we're going to have to force the issue. We're going to have to pry their greedy fingers off of our government. Both of these mega-industries are making record profits right now - even as I type - while the rest of the world's economy burns around them. Who will toss these behemoths off our backs? Perhaps Mr. Obama can do that. Al Gore -- who I'd love to see appointed Secretary of the Interior or heading up the EPA -- wrote an excellent OP-ED in the New York Times on November 9th:

Here is the good news: the bold steps that are needed to solve the climate crisis are exactly the same steps that ought to be taken in order to solve the economic crisis and the energy security crisis.

Economists across the spectrum - including Martin Feldstein and Lawrence Summers - agree that large and rapid investments in a jobs-intensive infrastructure initiative is the best way to revive our economy in a quick and sustainable way. Many also agree that our economy will fall behind if we continue spending hundreds of billions of dollars on foreign oil every year. Moreover, national security experts in both parties agree that we face a dangerous strategic vulnerability if the world suddenly loses access to Middle Eastern oil.

As Abraham Lincoln said during America's darkest hour, "The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew." In our present case, thinking anew requires discarding an outdated and fatally flawed definition of the problem we face.

CAVS and electric cars are the wave of the future -- but they should be the wave of the present. We have immediate needs for cheaper transportation, reduction of oil usage and reduction of carbon emissions. And our auto industry is out of time as well. Damn it Bush -- get the hell out of the way! We don't have until January. We need to get moving now.

At any rate... this is my car. Build it for me, please. If you make it, I will buy it. I don't want to contribute to Exxon-Mobile one minute longer. Set me free.


(Cross-posted on Daily Kos)

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