Saturday, 28 January 2012

A California Story

California has this committee or board that they call the California Air Resources Board.  Basically, they have the authority to meet, develop new rules and control a great deal of the state's future.  Their agenda?  Mostly to make fresh clean air.  This week....they made up a state rule that required by 2025.....one in seven cars new cars sold in the state must be electric or zero-emission.

Most dealers and car companies went along with this rule established.  The used car folks?  Well....they spoke and said that this would change sales in some ways....that they weren't entirely happy with the deal.

You can imagine the scene in 2026....you want a regular car....at the right price, and you can't get it as a resident of California.  So you drive over to Vegas....price non zero-emission car, buy it, and drive it home that night to your place in California.  I'm guessing an entire market will start up by that point.  You chat with Norm, a new Ford dealer in Montana.....he has the vehicle at the right price.  He puts it on a flatbed trailer and brings it to the state border of California....and you pick it up there.  I suspect half the new vehicles in California will be bought out of state by that point.

Electric cars have one serious problem....in that you are going to charge them up with electrical power.  If you knew the cost of a nightly charge on your vehicle....and your monthly electrical bill was going to approach five times what you currently pay....you might be laughing over the silly idea of electrical vehicles.  If you note your electrical charges over the last five years....they move up almost yearly.  Your consumption might be the same as five years ago, but general cost spirals upward.  You toss in thirty evenings of a charge on your vehicle.....and it just might not be that practical.

The non-emission car?  There aren't many negative comments....except they continually have to be tuned up.  If you only have a once a year inspection to worry about....with $300 likely going to your mechanic to ensure your zero-emission car passes the inspection....maybe that's ok.

I suspect that folks will ask stupid questions as we approach 2025, and eventually realize what this board really did.  They might have good intentions, but the end result might shock folks.

Grafenwoehr

Comments made yesterday indicate that Grafenwoehr (Americans typically call it "Graf")....will see American soldiers finally leave.  The US government indicates that the brigade kept there....has been selected to be one of the two removed from Europe.  They also said that they'd keep the post open, and the training range operational.....bringing in some troops from the states on a month-by-month basis to conduct training.  So your unit in Georgia might get a notice to deploy 400 guys to Graf for thirty days of training.

The impact?  Well....there's about forty million dollars a year spent by Americans in the Graf community.  This covers beer, food, apartments, car repairs, etc.  From the 7k Germans who live in Graf....around 3k of them work in some fashion for the Americans (on-post and off-post).  Some grill burgers....some do transmission work....some serve beer.

I imagine most Germans from Graf woke up this morning and mostly are in an anxiety attack.  Some built huge houses and rented out the bottom-half of the house to American families, at an exorbitant amount of money ($2k a month).  Who will rent at that rate?  No one.  A local German probably wouldn't pay more than $800 max.

Pubs and pizza operations?  They will suffer greatly.  Even if this training deployment deal occurs.....the guys coming in for thirty days will mostly train, and probably only get three days off during their deployment.  So out of a dozen pizza operations around Graf....most will close.  Same way for pubs.

Back in the 1990s....I was sent to Graf for two occasions.  The first one was this overnight trip.  I went with a second guy and we installed a satellite system one afternoon.  We were going to stay overnight.  So we looked for a hotel opening on post....nothing.  They gave us three possible places off-post, and each was full (at 6PM when we drove to each).  We branched out five miles....just driving....nothing.  We drove to some fancy hotel about twenty miles away, and it was full.  So around 10PM that night....we drove back to Graf and slept in the Volvo station wagon.  I learned then that Graf has some serious limitations.

My second trip?  A two-week adventure via the Air Force.....to stay in some 1960's style building with just bunk beds.  No toilets and almost no heat.  We got up and walked 200 feet to some building that had showers and toilets.  It had hot water from 5AM to 7AM, and 5PM to 7PM....and that was all the hot water they had.  If you walked over to the civilized part of the post....they had this million-dollar gym and a great movie theater.  But it just wasn't a place that you wanted to spend two weeks.

In two years as the brigade leaves Graf and the locals wake up to the new reality....I'm guessing that a 1k Germans eventually are forced into leaving the area.  You'd have to drive almost an hour to get to any real town with potential jobs, and even that might be limited.  In ten years.....the town will shrink down to 3k people....with various empty houses just sitting there.

It's a sad end to Graf.  It probably deserves better.  The German government might come in and offer up some incentives to start manufacturing there, but you aren't going to have any technology-smart folks around this town.  And I doubt that it will find a way to keep the population up to where it is today.  Americans will remember their time around Graf.  I'm guessing five hundred thousand Army guys (active and retired).....going back to the 1950s....will raise a beer tonight.....to the time they spent at Graf.