Για Τα Αυτοκίνητα Φταίνε Οι Αυτοκινητοβιομηχανίες

28 Δεκεμβρίου 2007 | Κανένα σχόλιο

Ένα θαυμάσιο άρθρο του New Yorker για τον τρόπο που εξελίχθηκαν ιστορικά τα αυτοκίνητα, και τις λύσεις που διαθέτουμε για το μέλλον. Πρόκειται ουσιαστικά για κριτική δυο νέων, αρκετά διαφορετικών βιβλίων, αλλά η συντάκτρια Ελίζαμπεθ Κολμπέρ δίνει μια πληρέστατη εικόνα της ιστορίας του αυτοκινήτου, και εξηγεί γιατί δεν υπάρχει κανένας λόγος αισιοδοξίας για το μέλλον. Όσο τρομακτικές είναι οι συνέπειες της ραγδαίας ανάπτυξης της αγοράς της Κίνας και της Ινδίας, άλλο τόσο είναι και η ιστορικά ασύδοτη συμπεριφορά των αυτοκινητοβιομηχανιών.

Διάβασε εντός του post ένα μικρό απόσπασμα (στα αγγλικά) για το πώς έβαλαν το μόλυβδο στη βενζίνη, γνωρίζοντας την τοξικότητά του, ενώ θα μπορούσαν να περιορίσουν το "χτύπημα" του κινητήρα με ευκολότερο τρόπο.

 

"Typical of the tales that McCarthy tells is the story of leaded gasoline. The earliest automobiles were designed to run on ordinary—which is to say, unleaded—gas. But in the nineteen-tens, as automakers began to experiment with higher-compression engines, the problem of “knock” arose. (Knock, which can cause engine damage, occurs when the fuel in a cylinder ignites before the piston has reached the top of its cycle.) In 1921, a team of G.M. researchers looking for a way to prevent knock discovered that by adding small amounts of tetraethyl lead, or TEL, to the fuel supply they could solve the problem.

By that point, the toxicity of lead was already well known. Indeed, one of the G.M. researchers behind TEL, Thomas Midgley, very nearly poisoned himself while working on the additive, and several workers at a plant experimenting with TEL died gruesome deaths as a result of exposure to it. (Midgley went on to invent Freon, which was later discovered to be destroying the ozone layer.) In response to an outcry from public-health experts, G.M. and Standard Oil, which had formed a joint venture called the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation to manufacture leaded gas, launched a P.R. campaign. Among the arguments the companies made was that there simply were no alternatives to TEL, a claim that, according to McCarthy, there is reason to believe they knew to be false. (Already in the twenties, chemists proposed eliminating knock by increasing the octane level in gasoline, as was eventually done). The Surgeon General was concerned enough to appoint a commission to look into the matter. The commission punted, with the result that leaded gas, heavily promoted by the Ethyl Corporation, soon became the standard at American filling stations. It took the federal government until the mid-nineteen-seventies to order its phase-out. By that point, G.M. had sold its interest in Ethyl, and automakers in general had turned against TEL, not because it caused brain damage but because it interfered with the operation of catalytic converters, an innovation that car manufacturers had also long resisted. It is estimated that by 1996, when the sale of leaded gasoline for use in cars was finally banned in the U.S., seven million tons of lead had been released from automobiles’ exhaust pipes into the air, and nearly seventy million American children had been exposed to what would now be considered dangerous blood-lead levels".

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