Thursday, 14 June 2007

Which Car Should I Buy?

Repairs on the ’98 Neon are approaching it’s value and I can’t rely on it the way I was once able to. It’s been a great car, but I can see the day when it won’t serve us anymore. With that in mind, I’m starting the search for a new vehicle to replace it.

From exploring the car sites, their aren’t many cars that seem like a worthwhile replacement. So, I’m in no hurry and happy to wait until the right car comes along – even if that means another 75k on the Neon.

Things I Care About – in Order

  1. Distinctive exterior.
    Something that demands a love it or hate it reaction. A beige Toyota Camry – um no. I think you need to go to extreme sizes for this – super big or super small. I’m going super small.
  2. Gas mileage greater than 30mpg city.
  3. I can fit comfortably and can see out the windshield.
    In many cars – convertibles, those with sunroofs, anything from Jeep –
  4. Easy to get a car seat in and out of backseat.
    Yes, as of next year, we’ll be back to the bucket car seat.
  5. Reliability
    It’s not uncommon for my car to sit un-driven outside for a week or two in the depth of winter or height of summer. I don’t care. I expect it to start when I turn the key.
  6. Minijack & iPod connectivity
    I actually prefer to not having AM/FM/CD/Satellite capabilities.
  7. Bluetooth phone connectivity.
    Having the phone integrated into the car’s audio system sounds very convenient.
  8. Carbon neutrality.
    Not just the usage, but I’d like the carbon imprint of manufacturing and delivery offset as well.
  9. I could fit a bicycle inside.
    Outside of my laptop gear, and a car seat, a bike is the most likely other thing I’ll be hauling.
  10. In 15 years a new driver might want to drive it.
    Barring a dramatic change fuel infrastructure, the idea of keeping a car that long for the kid to practice driving with is pretty attractive to me.
  11. Built-in garage door opener
    Again, a nice convenience. Makes it far more likely I’ll put the car in the garage.
  12. The fuel it runs on.
    Today, alternative fuels are at the point where using less regular unleaded gas is still more effective.

Things I Don’t Care About – in Order

  1. Color
  2. Engine size
  3. Upholstry and floor mats
  4. Chrome and trim
  5. Wheel sizes and locks
  6. Transmission type

All the ‘build your car’ sites care more about the second list than the first.

Cars I’ve been looking at thus far – Ordered by interest

  1. Scion xD
    Looks like a direct response to the Fit, but with better AV options.
  2. VW Rabbit TDI
    In the comments, Nathan suggested I look into it, so far, I like what I see.
  3. Honda Fit
    I sat in a Fit earlier this week, it feels pretty comfortable. I can see out the windows and the put the seat almost exactly where I want it.
  4. Toyota Yaris Sedan
  5. Nissan Versa
  6. Honda Civic
    It’s a good reliable, reputable car. That doesn’t feel as comfortable as the Fit.
  7. Honda Civic Hybrid
    Trading mileage for trunk space.
  8. Mazda 3 5-Door
    It’s been a very long time since I’ve looked at Ford. Kinda surprised this one is here.
  9. Toyota Prius
    It’s got the distinctive look and the tech gear, but seems kinda boring otherwise.
  10. Cooper Mini
    Trading the inconvenience of a 2-door for still being really cool in 15 years.

Am I missing something from this list?

Note to Chrysler: Despite my long history of Chrysler vehicles and that I feel more comfortable buying a Chrysler than a Ford or GM, you don’t have anything interesting that I haven’t already purchased.

Andy Atkinson is also in the market for a new ride, and ran the insurance and mileage numbers for his candidates.

Update 1 Sept 2010
So, I bought a Dodge Grand Caravan

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Carbon Trading in the US and Minnesota

If you caught the NPR/National Geographic segment on the European carbon trading efforts you may have gotten the impression that:

  1. the price of being carbon neutral is so low (+2%) that it’s irresponsible not to pay it.
  2. a market for carbon dioxide, mandatory or otherwise, didn’t exist stateside.

True on the former, false on the latter. First Crack 102 is a conversation about the Chicago Climate Exchange and the University of Minnesota.

baldguyshow calls it my best show to date.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Doing Something About Carbon Offset Arguments

Like the NYTimes, a month ago, today’s Strib gave carbon offsets the hairy eyeball.

As they confirm, being carbon neutral is super cheap ($6/laptop, a dime/gallon of gas). It’s so cheap, that I see it as the 2nd easiest way to be more environmentally & energy conscious. The first – buying all your energy through your energy company’s renewable energy program (like WindSource from Xcel Energy).

I buy both. I don’t buy Joel Makower‘s argument:

“I’m concerned this will simply be a guilt-free way for consumers to do as they please — to drive their Hummers as far as they want, just so long as it’s carbon-neutral.”

100% offset whether a luxury auto, a Tennessee mansion, a Dodge Neon, a Prius, or your daily bus commute is better than any of those without the offset. Doing something is always better than doing nothing. Being carbon-neutral is better than not.

So what if the biggest violators continually and repeatedly buy the most offsets. Isn’t that the point of offsets? If everything we used was completely carbon neutral from the start, we wouldn’t need offsets. But they’re not.

Sure, dramatically changing to a lower-impact lifestyle is even better. Quantifying and understanding your carbon footprint is a good, easy, approachable starting point.

After offsets, next step is better understanding the biggest violators in your lifestyle; your car, your appliances, using the Kill-a-Watt to find the others.

Then, reduce where you can, offset the rest.


“It seems that some environmentalists are more interested in producing guilt than in reducing carbon.” – Alex Tabarrok

Sunday, 18 February 2007

One Dime Closer To Carbon Neutral

Every gallon of gas equals 20 pounds of carbon dioxide and there’s a 12 gallon tank in the Neon and a 14 gallon tank in the Cruiser. So, every time we fill up, we’re responsible for another 240 or 280 lbs of CO2 in the atmosphere. (The Neon’s 10 years old this year…Ouch.)

On the plus side, I just got confirmation that 18,000 lbs of my family’s CO2 (69 fill-ups) will be neutralized thanks to TerraPass. Less than $100 covered our guestimated annual driving in 2 fairly efficient cars. (We’re also 100% WindSource in our home’s electricity.)

According to TerraPass’ “Around Towner” and “Cross Towner” pricing structures, neutralization is $.10 / gallon.

One dime per gallon.

So much carbon offset for so little.

Two questions:

  1. Have you purchased a TerraPass yet?
  2. Why isn’t carbon neutralization built-in to the Gas Tax?

The swag TerraPass sent did feel a little too much like I gave money to Public Radio. Are ‘thank you gifts’ the most effective use of the money I sent?

Speaking of GreenDimes.


“I’m wondering why they’re not also asking me if I want to buy a carbon offset [at the pump] and neutralize my gas consumption?” – J Wynia

2010 Sept 09

Prices for the carbon credits … have crashed to around 10 cents a tonne from all-time highs of over $7 in 2008, and trading volumes have largely dried up.