When Maria Robbins was 25 years old, an intruder broke into her home. The violent encounter made her question the role of chance in her life. But Robbins has found that the frightening event has helped her embrace life experiences more fully.
My experience contradicts what I have been taught. I feel guilty and alone.
By Cary Tennis
Please read this thoughtful, well-written question from a high school student and imagine growing up in her house with her parents. Try to see the world through her eyes. She didn’t ask to be raised by the people who raised her. She didn’t ask to start having doubts about what they taught her. But she was, and she is.
Remember when you first doubted what your parents had always told you? Remember when your beliefs stopped giving you comfort and started filling you with doubt? Remember high school? I do.
I’m a high school student and I’m experiencing a habitual and hidden internal conflict. I live with both my parents, who are both fairly conservative. My mom is a religious Christian who has taught me values based on Christianity. And until recently, I accepted her views and saw myself as a conservative as well. About a year ago, I started developing different social and political values. I’m not really sure what happened, but somehow I became more liberal. Silently, I started questioning the ideas my mother instilled into me.
The way I see the world has changed. Suddenly, people who were “degenerate” aren’t so sinful anymore. I listened to degenerate music and I enjoyed it.(…) Every Sunday, I went to church but I stopped listening to the sermons. I asked myself blasphemous hypothetical questions: “Could I see myself in a homosexual relationship? Would I ever consider getting an abortion? Did I see myself as agnostic?” More often than not, I gave myself blasphemous responses.
My friends and I rarely discuss social mores. People in my family assume that we have the identical principles that all pious, good Christians should have. Our opposing views confuse me. Now I carry around feelings of guilt about thinking the way I do. Sometimes, I feel like my liberal views are well justified. Other times, there’s a voice that’s telling me I’ll burn in hell when I die. I also doubt the sincerity of my thoughts: Are my liberal views my independent thoughts, or are they just a silent way of rebelling against my parents and fitting in with more liberal-minded people?
Young and Confused
Time is running out on developing a truly energy-efficient car. Accelerated burning of fossil fuels is bringing us closer to the tipping point of irreversible climate catastrophe. We are likely to peak soon in the production of conventional oil — so gasoline prices are inevitably headed higher in the coming decades. Meanwhile, the cars we build today stay on the road more than 15 years, so we have no time to waste.
You can buy a flexible fuel vehicle today that runs on 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, and you might even be able to find an E85 station in your city. But corn ethanol is far from a desirable alternative fuel. It doesn’t significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or your fuel bill. That would require low-carbon ethanol from biomass such as switchgrass, so-called cellulosic ethanol, but the country does not have a single commercial cellulosic ethanol facility. It will probably be at least 15 years — and possibly twice that long — before we have large volumes of cellulosic biofuels for sale nationwide at an affordable price.
Only one zero-carbon alternative fuel is substantially cheaper than gasoline: electricity from renewable sources (or nuclear power). Of course, you’d need a car that runs on electricity, and many people have thought that you would need a technological breakthrough, or at least a major advance in battery technology, to make that practical.
But game-changing breakthroughs in the energy sector are rare indeed. One can wait a lifetime for a major new technology that fundamentally alters the way we use energy. That’s why the Extreme Hybrid, whose electric technology is available today, is so exciting.
We saw all-electric cars in the 1990s, but they failed for a variety of reasons, as explained in the movie “Who Killed the Electric Car?” One problem is that giving an electric car a 200-mile range requires a lot of batteries, which adds weight, takes up space, and increases cost. Plus, it takes hours to fill one up, so if you run out of juice, you are stuck, making it impractical as a primary family car. Ultimately, it lacked support by the very car companies, like General Motors, that built it in the first place.
Everything changed with the success of hybrid-electric cars like the Prius, which combine a gasoline engine with a battery and electric motor. These hybrids charge the battery with energy regenerated during braking or from the gas engine. They prove that a car combining gas and electric drives can be practical and affordable and even desirable. Some groups have been retrofitting Priuses to make them plug-ins, providing the best of both worlds — acting as an electric car for local trips, but keeping the gas tank and engine for long trips and quick refueling.
The New York Times describes the problem using this unintentionally amusing mixed metaphor:
“In fact, the problem in a hybrid is not only how much energy the batteries hold, a quality called energy density, but how fast they can deliver it, called power density. The difference between energy density and power density is like the difference between a wine jug and a peanut butter jar — the containers may have the same capacity, but the size of their openings differ greatly.”
Note to NYT: When describing a power battery that can deliver energy in short, quick bursts, “peanut butter” is not the best analogy. A shaken bottle of champagne might be better.
Regular hybrids were made practical by the development of the nickel metal hydride battery, due in large part to a government-funded research consortium. The prototype or demonstration hybrids built to date have tended to use the more expensive, but more powerful and compact, lithium-ion batteries popularized by the electronics industry.
Yet discharging a battery too rapidly, especially the current generation of relatively inexpensive lithium-ion batteries such as are found in laptops and cellphones, can damage it, degrading its lifetime. The question has been: When will we have an affordable, safe, compact and long-lived lithium-ion battery that can deliver both energy (for range) and power (for acceleration) sufficient for a practical car?