In re: A/C

So apparently some folks weren’t too keen on my including automatic transmission as one of the things ‘wrong’ with America.  I don’t remember per se mentioning it exactly like that, but I am sure a quick search would prove me wrong.  So I won’t rant on that again, well maybe just a little.  I don’t think its as crazy as my friends do to link automatic transmission in cars to a general culture phenomenon of inactivity and laziness.  In fact while being a couch potato myself for a bit last night (after the tiring task of flying all day – which makes me wonder how can sitting be so tiring?) Alton Brown was discussing on his food network special ‘Feasting on Asphalt’ how the car-hop / drive in culture declined and he pointed towards a few things, including the development of cup holders (some cars / suvs / minivans he pointed out have 18 or more of these!) and also surprise, automatic transmission.  Back in the day when more then just a few poor students, wealthy sports-car owners and a few schmucks (me?) were driving stick, eating the new four patty BK quad stacker would have been a dangerous proposition.  Thanks to automatic transmission, cruise control and now self-adapting cruise control pretty soon we will be able to use both hands to chow down.

So what you say?  I agree and we will move forward to a more important topic Air Conditioning.  Ah the wonders, walking inside where the first chill hits you, reminding you how hot and sticky it is outside.  Once inside why should you ever leave, as even the walk to your car where it might take 1 minute to cool it down reminds you of what mother nature can do to you. 

This morning I came across a really interesting article on A/C and what it and we are doing to our planet.  A/C as you may have already realized pumps the heat inside outside and in so doing uses a whole hell of a lot of energy.  However A/C has allowed folks to populate the deserts of the American Southwest and for places like Las Vegas to boom.  Meanwhile even here in the lowly Midwest where I was able to grow up without A/C now seem hotter then ever and I run home crying until I open the door to be greeted by the burst of cold air (relatively cold, as I try and save some energy during the day, but still I am as guilty as the rest of us A/C users)

So what do we do?  Pack up shop and move up to Minnesota and our other fine northern states?  Well not sure if that’s the answer, but it does make you wonder.  In the case of businesses many people complain that its too cold — this is in the summer.  In my building where we don’t have individual control people cover up there vents with newspapers to stay ‘warm’.  So possibly one first step would be moderation?  I know this conflicts with our culture of buffets, big gulps and suvs, but consider the possible savings of electricity if we all just decided to raise our controls 2 degrees. 

I’ll remain torn as I love the fresh air coming through my windows, but also relish the idea of going to bed with it cool and comfortable, but while contemplating this I’d recommend you check out A/C D.C. The deluded world of air conditioning.


6 Responses

  1. “Thanks to automatic transmission, cruise control and now self-adapting cruise control pretty soon we will be able to use both hands to chow down.”

    Or we can be better drivers with two hands on the wheel instead of just one. If your true concern is inattentive drivers, I would guess that the solution is tighter license requirements, not restrictions on useful technology (and btw, today’s automatic transmissions save gas compared to stick).

    Regarding the A/C issue, we all know moderation won’t happen. The only solution is to close the market externality. The only ways I can think to do that are to develop cleaner technology which eliminates the pollution (and subsequently the externality) or to tax polluters for the environmental damage they do and then actually use that money for clean-up. I’m no expert, but I imagine the second option to be exceedingly impractical (even assuming such an option is possible at all). Maybe I’m missing something, but I think the only answer is to cross our fingers and push for better technology.

  2. Ed,

    Please write one positive post about America. Just one. And it cannot include food.

  3. I love alton brown, but I am still not convinced by the automatic transmission argument.

  4. Hey, this has nothing to do with this post, just a link to a story I thought you might like. Hope all’s well. Might be seeing you in a couple weeks.

  5. I agree with you Dave for the most part (including that in some cars now the automatic are getting the same or better gas mileage then the manual – although it depends on the car and the engine and the program the car uses for the AT)

    Yet I still have a hunch that people who are required to shift (and thus pay a bit more attention to the road, despite occasionally taking one hand off the wheel) get in less accidents (I could be soo wrong here) I know last weekend when I was in a rental automatic car it was much easier to get on the phone, eat a quad burger and do some sudoku all at the same time.

  6. I assume you’re referring to the quad stacker. Let me know how it is before my drive home.

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