Almost everything in modern life is designed to waste energy. The biggest culprit is how we get to and from work. Our houses are too far from our job, so we have to drive a lot. All those cars on the road cause traffic jams that waste fuel. Then there are the traffic lights, toll booths, and other obstacles that waste the inertia you build up while driving. It’s all possible because the whole system evolved on a false premise that petroleum is cheap and plentiful and will be that way forever.
The awesome Lisa Margonelli, author of Oil on the Brain and a fellow at the New America Foundation, talks us through the design of a world that completely disregards the perils of oil consumption and how new designs are meant to make us all more content with the mess we’ve made.
Here’s a great talk Lisa gave at the TEDxOilSpill summit that took place in June 2010. The bit about the gas pumps inspired me to talk to her for this program.
2:42: Lisa mentions that cars are tuned to be most efficient around 55 to 60 mph. The National Maximum Speed Law (see below)
was created as a result of the oil shortages due to the oil embargo. At the time, car’s engines were most efficient at that speed, and so the law was put in place to conserve fuel and keep costs on gas from going through the roof.
You state that cars were actually “tuned” to be most efficient at 55-60, and that it was a deliberate act to waste gas due to the speed that most Americans would like to drive on the highway at, but I believe that that is just the way that most gas engines work (or at least worked at the time) to account for maximum efficiency with both highway and city driving. Please let me know if I’m incorrect, and what sources you have supporting your data.