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April 15, 2006

Freezing Gas Prices

Cryogenically!

Parkinson's famous law states that "Work expands to fill the amount of time available to do it in." It's a particular instance of the more general, not-especially-surprising principle that increasing the availability of a resource promotes greater use of it. Another example is that "Junk accumulates to fill the amount of horizontal space available to accommodate it." In short, demands tend to vary with the ease of satisfying them.

This probably comes as no surprise to anyone but economists and official planners. Mandating that auto manufacturers increase the gas mileage of their cars by, say, 10% isn't going to reduce a country's expenditure on gas by 10% in the simplistic way that the figures being banded about imply. They assume that the number of miles people drive in a year is a constant, which, multiplied by the price per gallon, will give the total spent. But the assumption is false. What tends to be constant is the amount per week or month that someone budgets for gas, and if you give them a more efficient car they'll find more places to go.

Anyway, those who have more places that they'd like to go than the budget can comfortably justify might consider investing in a home cryogenics plant. Scott Fields drew my attention to one David Hutchinson, who runs a cryogenics business at his home in Missouri, cryogenically tempering all kinds of metal part and objects at -300oF to make them last longer. As an experiment, he treated the engine parts of his hybrid Honda and found that the mileage increased from 50 miles per gallon to almost 120. A "cryo'd" engine can be expected to last 600,000 to a million miles. Article at www.kfor.com/Global/story.asp?s=3390503.

 
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