Monday, February 2, 2009

CARB and Cargoism

"CARB" is the California Air Resources Board. According to the January 28 East Bay Express, the CARB has backed off plans to impose strict regulations on the conversion of hybrid cars into mostly electric vehicles because of concerns about smog production when converted vehicles are plugged in to recharge batteries. A small company that converts hybrids to electric vehicles in Berkeley rallied to oppose the regulations, which it felt would put it out of business because of prohibitive costs.

Alternative vehicles such as hybrids and electric cars will probably play a role in future years. But how significant will that role be? In his book Overshoot, William Catton explained some psychological paradigms that dominate western thought. Here are two:

Age of Exhuberance: the centuries of growth and progress that followed the enlargement of habitat available to Europeans as a result of voyages of discovery: a period of expansion when a species takes exhuberant advantage of the abundant opportunities in an eminently suitable but previously inaccessible habitat.

Cargoism: faith that technolgical progress will stave off major institutional change even in a post-exhuberant world.

Many westerners are aware that people may have reached the ecological limits of their expansion, but still, they hang on to the luxurious fantasy that technological solutions will allow them maintain the current western standard of living. But how could that be when so many of the raw materials that people need to maintain their standard of living depend on extracting those resources from the planet, often at great environmental cost, and frequently from parts of the world that are hostile to American desires?

Lithium, for example, which is used in hybrid and electric vehicles, can be found in abundance in Bolivia. But under its new leader Evo Morales, Bolivia is holding on tight to lithium and its other natural resources -- and is feeling no sense of favoritism toward the United States.

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