A while ago, I stumbled across this amazing article about a car mechanic, who never even graduated high school, and who has developed a diesel engine that is cleaner (biodiesel based), more fuel efficient, and more powerful than the standard engine produced by car companies (italics mine):
This is the sort of work that’s making Goodwin famous in the world of underground car modders. He is a virtuoso of fuel economy. He takes the hugest American cars on the road and rejiggers them to get up to quadruple their normal mileage and burn low-emission renewable fuels grown on U.S. soil–all while doubling their horsepower. The result thrills eco-evangelists and red-meat Americans alike: a vehicle that’s simultaneously green and mean. And word’s getting out. In the corner of his office sits Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 Jeep Wagoneer, which Goodwin is converting to biodiesel; soon, Neil Young will be shipping him a 1960 Lincoln Continental to transform into a biodiesel–electric hybrid.
His target for Young’s car? One hundred miles per gallon.
This is more than a mere American Chopper–style makeover. Goodwin’s experiments point to a radically cleaner and cheaper future for the American car. The numbers are simple: With a $5,000 bolt-on kit he co-engineered–the poor man’s version of a Goodwin conversion–he can immediately transform any diesel vehicle to burn 50% less fuel and produce 80% fewer emissions. On a full-size gas-guzzler, he figures the kit earns its money back in about a year–or, on a regular car, two–while hitting an emissions target from the outset that’s more stringent than any regulation we’re likely to see in our lifetime. “Johnathan’s in a league of his own,” says Martin Tobias, CEO of Imperium Renewables, the nation’s largest producer of biodiesel. “Nobody out there is doing experiments like he is.”
Nobody–particularly not Detroit. Indeed, Goodwin is doing precisely what the big American automakers have always insisted is impossible. They have long argued that fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel cars are a hard sell because they’re too cramped and meek for our market. They’ve lobbied aggressively against raising fuel-efficiency and emissions standards, insisting that either would doom the domestic industry. Yet the truth is that Detroit is now getting squeezed from all sides. This fall, labor unrest is brewing, and after decades of inertia on fuel-economy standards, Congress is jockeying to boost the target for cars to 35 mpg, a 10 mpg jump (which is either ridiculously large or ridiculously small, depending on whom you ask). More than a dozen states are enacting laws requiring steep reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. Meanwhile, gas prices have hovered around $3 per gallon for more than a year. And European and Japanese carmakers are flooding the market with diesel and hybrid machines that get up to 40% better mileage than the best American cars; some, such as Mercedes’s new BlueTec diesel sedans, deliver that kind of efficiency and more horsepower.
What’s bothered me about the debate surrounding issues like global warming is the abject pessimism that stems from the conservative side of the debate (the Republicant side…). Rather than viewing the need to improve gas mileage or pollution standards as a way to make a better product, the typical conservative response has been to piss and moan about how it can’t be done. This mechanic has shown that it can be done. Unfortunately, Detroit’s track record is such that the only way they’ll adopt this technology–which makes a more environmentally-friendly and powerful car–is if the federal government forces them to do so.
Of course, since this won’t come from the Republicant side, we have to count on the Democrats–and when is the last time the Democrats have stood up for anything, other than Social Security, in the last few years…