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The Rube Goldberg Machine

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The Rube Godberg Machine
The Rube Godberg Machine
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I t sometimes happens, always with good intentions. Troubles emerge predicated on a societal improvement, but humanity marches on, like a coral colony growing ever larger and more complex on the bones of what came before. The low compression, thirty or forty horse power Model T Ford has been replaced by a computer controlled, multi-port fuel injected, turbo charged, after-cooled engine, creating toxic emissions by the pound, treated by one or more platinum coated, catalytic converters, while a series of oxygen sensors send data to the powertrain control module, reporting the burn efficiency. Despite all of these best efforts, the fossil-fueled automobile is the largest creator of air pollution in the industrial world.

You glide into your local UB Screwed station expecting the fuel to be there and to always be there. A complicated series of trucks, pipelines, refineries, storage facilities and supertankers, ensures the spigot will always be open, backed by the full faith and military power of the United States of America. A foreign and domestic policy of oil hegemony, regulates the economy as much or more than anyone elected in Washington. I wonder, asks my cynical side, what a chart of election year oil prices might reflect?

The development of the automobile was a simple progression of technology. There's nothing wrong with the idea, but what happens when the tool controls the operator, when the tool becomes the master and the primary source of our nation's maladies? When we must squander trillions of dollars and send our children off to die, maybe, just maybe, there's something wrong with our fuel?

Ford is building $60,000 aluminum pickups to save weight, getting a whopping 26mpg. Wow, a whole twenty-six miles on three or four dollar gallon fuel. Plus the cost of maintenance, each vehicle requiring oil changes of a gallon of petroleum or synthetic lubricant. We all have our automotive war stories, from fan belts to dropped valves. Automobiles manufactured today are the most technologically advanced and expensive devices ever mass produced. The price of the technology in new vehicles is primarily a failed effort to burn petroleum cleanly, pushing them out of the reach of the masses they were intended to serve.

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I who am I? Born at the pinnacle of American prosperity to parents raised during the last great depression. I was the youngest child of the youngest children born almost between the generations and that in fact clouds and obscures who it is that (more...)

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