Our First Solo

by Al Lococo


We all remember the rush we felt the first time we got behind the wheel of an automobile alone.  We couldn't wait to get out of sight of our parent or instructor or whoever had been supervising our driver training. The experience is an emotional event imprinted on our psyche.


Our reaction to anything that might threaten our access to the automobile is visceral. It involves every fiber of our being, every nerve ending and every cell. It is chemical and automatic and has little to do with reason.


Think about this. Come to terms with it. Admit the essential emotional connection you have to your car. If you cannot accept this reality, you cannot come to terms with the problems related to our reliance on oil.


If the hair stands up on the back of your neck, if you get angry, if you stop listening, when someone says, continued use of oil is not sustainable, emotional meltdown is at the root your denial.


You love your car, the facts are confusing, and all that comes to mind is "Drill, baby, drill!


Recognizing that, let's be grownup about this. No one is going to take your car away from you. You can quite safely think or even discuss the facts, without sacrificing anything.


So what are the facts?




In December of 1970, we produced 10 million barrels of oil per day. Today we produce little more than half of that amount.  This is true despite unprecedented expansion of high tech drilling in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. Since then, consumption has doubled.


The Deep Water Horizon oil reserve, below the failed blowout prevention valve on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, is 3 billion barrels of oil.  At 20 million barrels of oil per day, this is only a 150 day or a 5 month supply of oil.  


Had the well been successful, BP would have grossed $240 billion at a price of $80 per barrel. We took the risk, so they could take the profit, and extend our oil supply by only 150 days.  


Every day, Americans consume 20 million barrels of oil. At $50 a barrel, that is one billion dollars a day. At $100 per barrel, that is two billion dollars per day. The current price of oil is in excess of $50 per barrel.  In the summer of 2008, oil was at a price in excess of $100 per barrel.


We are unable to produce much more than a quarter of the oil we consume.  As a result, the lifeblood of this country is flowing away to foreign oil producers.


This flow of dollars is at the root of a serious economic problem.




The first step in solving a problem, is recognizing the problem. If we have a knee jerk reaction that says, "I love my car, you're just trying to confuse me." ,"Figures dont lie, but liars figure.", then we are lost. We are lost because, we choose to believe what we want to be true, (that there is no problem), rather than the truth, (that oil consumption at the current rate, is not sustainable and is a drain on our economy).


Even as oil pours into the Gulf of Mexico, we deny the day of reckoning, and we run from the warning, like frightened mules run from the lion.


You have three choices. You can accept these facts, you can prove or disprove them and replace them with your own results, or you can trust the people, who tell you what you want to hear, (that there is no problem).


If you can set aside your emotional attachment to the status quo, if you can see the truth, then take action. Write a letter.  Mail it to someone. Send it to the editor of your favorite newspaper or magazine.  Send it to your congressmen. Send it to a family member or a friend.




Once the problem is recognized and understood, it must be solved. The best way to solve the problems stemming from our reliance on oil, is to stop or reduce our use of oil. There are many ways to do this.  Let's look at two. The first is mass transit. This is a great idea.  The obstacles are:

       1)    Cultural acceptance means ending our emotional tie to the automobile,

       2)    requires a massive infrastructure.


These obstacles are not a reason to ignore mass transit as a solution, but do make it more of a long term, rather than a short-term solution.


The Electric Car, on the other hand, can be more quickly adopted.  It has both of the obstacles of mass transit, but to a much lesser degree.  The primary obstacle to cultural acceptance of the electric car is range anxiety. The primary concern, related to infrastructure, is the need for public charging stations.


Just as with our first solo experience with a gasoline automobile, there is a somewhat less emotional reaction, when an experienced driver, takes the wheel of an electric vehicle, for the first time. It is called the EV Grin.  It is the manifestation of the realization that, "Hey, I am actually doing it, I am driving without using any gas."


But, what about range? What if my battery goes dead before I reach my destination? We know that most people drive less than 100 miles a day.  That means that most people will find an electric car with a range of 100 miles or more useful, even without any public charging infrastructure.


If you don't believe we have a problem, why would you consider a car, with a range limit of 100 miles? But if you do believe there is a problem, and you know your daily requirements can be met by a car with a range that exceeds your requirements, there is no limitation, and you have an alternative that addresses the problem.  




What does it mean to be an American? Winston Churchill said, "You can always count on Americans to do the right thingafter theyve tried everything else."  this is an interesting observation. He said this many years ago and he wasn't talking abut the current generation or the current crisis. Are we just working our way through the possibilities? Do we have to drill holes in every square foot of the planet before we realize, we have reached the point of diminishing returns.


Is now the time, to recognize the true cost of business as usual, and apply our incentive resources to the alternative?  Drilling becomes more an more expensive, and at the same time, more risky, with more severe consequences, in the event of error.


We don't so much have to make it happen, as simply, to let it happen. All of our emphasis is on continuing the oil economy.  Oil has an unfair advantage.  We have oil royalties, subsidies and taxes working against the electric car. The flow of these dollars is intended to encourage drilling for oil, and make oil, both profitable and cheap at the same time. To make the price of gas at the pump artificially low, makes it more difficult to make the cost of driving an  electric car attractive. European drivers pay more than twice what we were paying, in the summer of 2008, at our current price peak.


To subsidize electric car technology, simply reduces the disadvantage.  We need to stop subsidizing oil and at the same time, subsidize electric vehicle technology. This will serve to encourage the adoption of the electric car, by those for whom electric cars are useful.


Even if your range requirements exceed the capabilities of an electric car, surely, you can see, that if those whose needs are satisfied by these vehicles, had the opportunity to choose an electric car, we would have a path to a solution.


So, it is incumbent on a reasonable person, even one whose needs are not met by an electric car, to support incentives intended to encourage the development and use of electric vehicles. Such individuals should take this position even if it results in higher gas prices, because it will also allow existing oil reserves, to last longer.  This resulting rise in gas prices will be more controlled and stable, than what will result if we do nothing to encourage the electric car alternative, and the demand for gas, of the entire driving population , exceeds supply.




Our Nation has, in the past demonstrated a spirit of cooperation, determination and resolution, when required to rise to a challenge. It usually requires a Pearl Harbor or a Sputnik to mobilize us. Is the Deep Water Horizon, failed blowout prevention valve, and the subsequent spill, our "Pearl Harbor"? Is this the call to action we need? Remember the Alamo! Remember the Maine! Remember 911! Remember the Great Gulf Gusher!


Or do we rally to the call "Drill, baby, drill!" And do we choose to trivialize the magnitude of the event, as this article from the AP wire service, encourages us to do?


"By the numbers: Oil leak wouldn't fill Super-dome"




"Overwhelmed and saddened by the gargantuan size of the Gulf oil spill?

A little mathematical context to the spill size can put the environmental catastrophe in perspective. Viewing it through some lenses, it isn't that huge. The Mississippi River pours as much water into the Gulf of Mexico in 38 seconds as the BP oil leak has done in two months."

The author, I suppose, might find it reasonable, if he woke up in the morning and found a small amount of crude oil in his bathroom sink. An amount of crude that only fills it up one third of the way, is not so much crude, is it? We might expect him to wash his hands and face with it. 


Perhaps instead of sugar, he might put a teaspoonful of crude in his morning coffee.  After all a teaspoonful of crude is not so much compared to a full cup of coffee. Why not use the calories from the saved teaspoonful sugar and place it in the fuel tank of his automobile.  A teaspoonful of sugar is not so much as the 10 or 20 gallons of gas already in the fuel tank. Or is mixing crude oil and fresh water for washing or sugar and gas, mixing apples and oranges?


We wouldn't expect the author to do any of these things. It doesn't make sense. Neither does it make sense to accept tens of thousands of barrels of oil flowing freely into the Gulf every day as tolerable. To compare this uncontrolled flow of crude, to the  flow of fresh water from the Mississippi river, makes no more sense than washing your face with crude. 



The comparable volumes are irrelevant. A teaspoonful of sugar in the fuel tank is very small compared to the volume of fuel in the tank but will do significant and costly damage to the engine of the vehicle.  So also it is ridiculous to compare the volume of fresh water from the Mississippi to the volume of crude oil flowing from the Great Gulf Gusher. They are both enormous if not equal. The latter being inappropriate and unnatural. the former being normal and natural.




Crude oil and fresh water are two different things. Fresh water flowing into the Gulf is natural and normal.  Crude oil flowing into the Gulf is not normal, natural or acceptable and is a sin against God and nature.


The average person is frustrated and powerless to cope with the Great Gulf Gusher. Or are we powerless? Is it not the average person who was persuaded by corporate interests to embrace the oil economy. Is it not the average person who buys ever larger and heavier cars. We make choices, are we not complicit in this spill?



It is now in light of current events that Old Testament stories have their greatest meaning. The stories of the Garden of Eden, Sodom and Gomorra, The Tower of Babel or Noah's Arc, now seem especially relevant. America was blessed with abundant resources of every kind.  These riches have been the source of our wealth and power in the world. It is less due to our resourcefulness, as we like to believe, and more due to our resources that we owe our success.


The compassion of God and the folly of humanity are limitless. Everything else is limited. Fossil fuel reserves are limited. Even tolerance has a limit.


Can we see the limits of fossil fuel based technology. Have we reached the limit of tolerance? Are we ready to demand the alternatives? Are we ready to demand a halt to corporate welfare, giving inappropriate and unnecessary incentives to fossil fuel production, making the alternatives economically unattractive.


Are we ready to consider such alternatives where they are available? Are we willing to demand the alternative?  Is our emotional attachment to the status quo standing in the way of reason?


================================= Virtue ===========================



This is an ancient symbol of the three virtues. Their names are are Mizaru, Kikazaru, and Iwazaru. Sometimes there is a fourth monkey, named Shizaru, His virtue is that he will do no evil.




It reminds me of our, not so virtuous, desire to ignore the Great Gulf Gusher and the decline in world oil reserves. We dont want to see the spill, hear about the subject or talk about it. And we take no part in the blame. We do no evil.


======================== Comment =================================


I have received the following comment from Herr Wieland Kerschner in Hamburg Germany. He offers valuable insight into his German (European) view of us, and our love affaire with the automobile. Europe in general, but especially Germany is already moving toward a green economy.

Germany installs a thousand times more solar panels in a month than we install in the State of Florida install in a year. This infrastructure enhancement makes Germany less vulnerable to terrorist attack and thus more secure. This distributed power system minimizes vulnerability to the single point of failure such as power distribution lines and large centrally located power plants.


This system is the result of German government foresight manifested in carefully legislated incentives that give fair credit to individuals and businesses that supply solar power to the grid during periods of peak load.


Here are the comments of Herr Wieland Kerschner, Hamburg Germany.





Dear Mr. Al Lococo


I like you little article our first solo I like the comparisons of the amount of oil and the day of use. I like also how you describe the relationship of American people and cars. Both are true I suppose.


In other places of the world it is difficult because the people do not have this relationship. For two reasons first they are poor or second they have a very advanced public Transport system (PTS).


Very much of the people which come to Hamburg (HH), Germany are  using  the PTS. They use their car only to go from their homes to the Train station if they live outside of HH (Of cause a lot of people go by car to work). If all the people would  go by car to work in HH we would have to total traffic breakdown. Our Cities are not car cities.


Psychological we do not have this relationship like you do in the US. I by myself dont have a car. I have a bicycle and a ticket to ride the PTS. I do not plan to buy a car. If I would live in the US I must have a Car because you do not have a useful PTS like we do. I can go by Train from Hamburg to Rom or Paris without any problems. A car is not necessarily part of our feeling of freedom. It could be a part of it. In the US it is totally different.   


To me it is pretty interesting if some one is argueing with sin In Germany nobody would take you serious if you would do this in such an article. If somebody lives in the US he has to do like this I suppose.


If you promote the electro car why dont you call names like Tesla and GM?


Some other subject you did also not mention in your article, is the fact that a lot of people are very afraid with the US because of their drilling round the world. The US has a special navy command at the coast of Angola. They are only responsible for the supply of oil.  


Some other point you did not mention is that some drop of oil is poising a ton of water. Crude oil is very poisoning.


The last big oil source we found were the sources in Saudi Arabia in the 70s.


The last point you did not mention was the fact that the deep water disaster was not the first of this kind in the Gulf. The last one I know was at the coast of Yucatan (Mexico) It took 10 Month to stop it.


What Churchill said about the Americans is always and ever true. He also said In the end of the day they do the right thing.  Obama is one of these hopes but he has to deal with a very big conservative amount of people.


The most of the Americans are not prepared to think in green terms. You have a lot of National parks but you drive them with big cars. We have parks like this. In most of the parks car driving is not allowed. In the US this is unthinkable.


This is enough for now. Go on in writing but it is a long way.



Wieland Kerschner


Hamburg Germany   




 MfG, for those unfamiliar with the German language, is not manufacturing. The capitalization is important. Initial cap is used to start a sentence and initial cap for nouns.


 Mit freundlichen Gren (lit. "With friendly regards") and is equivalent to Yours sincerely or Yours faithfully in English. 



Al Lococo


"Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know."

M. King Hubbert