In the past few decades there has been a big increase in demand by consumers for an alternative energy source other than gasoline regarding vehicles and transportation. Companies have attempted every imaginable configuration for powering a car, diesel, hydrogen, and steam powered are just a few of the more normal energies attempted. However in the past few years the field of electric cars available on the market has truly started to explode. But not many are seen on the road on a daily basis and that is because some the cost and benefits just don’t seem to make sense.
Electric cars in the past few years have really started to advance in the area that has always been their Achilles heel , fuel range. Time Magazine talks about how the MPG (miles per gallon) of and average gasoline burning vehicle often far exceed the MPC (miles per charge) of electric vehicles. This is why many companies such as Tesla and Fisker have developed charging systems in the cars that charge the cars while either driving, through solar panels in the roof, or through regenerative braking. Companies have been able to take electric cars from the shadows of the gas powered cars that could drive 200-300 hundred miles per tank, to leading them with the near 400 mile per charge RIMAC. The new wave of electric cars with plenty of range seem to be drawing drivers of gas powered cars to the more environmentally friendly electric car.
The first problem that most consumers see in the electric car fleet is the amount of pollution it takes to make the cars and more specifically the batteries themselves that power the cars. The car research website Car Connection wrote an article about how it takes far more energy to build, drive, and destroy a Toyota Prius, what is considered the poster boy of hybrid and electric cars everywhere, than it does to do the same to a “gas guzzler” like the Hummer H2 SUV or Dodge Viper sports car. The production of a electric car battery requires a massive amount of resources that have to be shipped all over the world on polluting ocean freighters, then into polluting factories and then into cars, and unfortunately to hurt the electric cars even more, their batteries do not last nearly as long as those of normal gas production cars. These batteries also require a much more energy consuming and usually less Eco-friendly proses of breaking down the batteries after use, which also discourages environmentally conscious potential buyers from purchasing these cars.
Lastly, the electric car market has had its problems with cost, not cost benefit cost, but true monetary cost. With the price of a minimalist electric car running between 25 and 30 thousand dollars many buyers are dissuaded due to their starting prices or the sky high, top of the line, bank busting, million dollars plus needed to be shelled out for the above mentioned RIMAC. These cars make the high mpg gas powered cars produced by Chevrolet and Ford that cost a mere 13 thousand dollars that produce a near 40 mpg. Electric cars are not for those on a tight budget due to their high prices and this is before maintenance is factored in, or risk. In recent months there have been many reports of the electric based hybrid Fisker Karma, a mainly electric powered performance car that has a gas engine for high speed when wanted by the driver, suddenly exploding in a ball of flame. This has not only led to many injuries, but also the impending bankruptcy of Fisker due to lawsuits and government fines. There is still much research and development needed in the safety and production cost of electric cars.
Electric cars are just breaking on to the mainstream market, and for that reason they have a lot of advancing to do before their benefits out weigh the costs enough to make electric cars an everyday product used by a majority of the people. Even for the eco friendly fanatics their are still many problems with the ways these cars are produced and how polluting that can be. The safety of these cars also comes into question as well as their range of transportation on a single charge. While electric cars may be new to the market, they are extremely young in their development and need much advancement before the average person will want one, let alone have one, due to the costs, for now, far outweighing the benefits.
One of the things we touched on during this course, while ever so briefly, that greatly intrigued me was the use of the filibuster and its accepted use in the Senate. The filibuster is the total stoppage of forward movement on a bill by a single person stalling and talking about whatever they really want till a majority of 60 out of 100 Senators vote for it to end. This is used mainly by the majority to control the conversation. However, the part that I later discovered and what boggled my mind was the fact that the filibuster has been totally expelled from the House of Representatives. The idea that one side of the legislative branch of the government can completely and totally abolish the use of one of the most important tools in the obstruction of a bill or topic of conversation is in my mind remarkable.
The first thing I find exceptional about the House’s complete deletion of the filibuster is the fact that the House got rid of the filibuster so early in their history.The House took steps as early as 1842 to get rid of the filibuster and to install a “Rules Committee”, this committee places limits and restrictions regarding debates that are headed to the floor. This prevents occasions like the one that took place in the Senate on August 28th-29th when Strom Thurmond spoke for 24 hours 18 minutes while stalling the Civil Rights Act of 1957. The House realized at an early age that the limiting of time spent on bills would get more done, leading to a more efficient use of power and time.
The second thing I find incredible about the House’s band of the filibuster, is the fact that the Senate has not followed suite. With as many as 139 filibusters happening in very recent years the use of filibusters is changing from what used to be a rarity to an almost normal event in the Senate. The Senate majority can basically control the floor by sing well placed filibusters, blocking the conversation on laws and topics they disapprove of. Yet that is getting our country no where, the majority could easily just use their power to vote through the items they favor and turn down the ones they dislike. The power in the Senate needs to be controlled and maintained in a civilized fashion that gets things done in the speediest way possible.
The Senate needs to keep their stalling in check and take the focus from avoiding bills and problems to actually doing something about it. Even if a bill is not passed that is still better than sitting there having a Senator give long filibusters that can often backfire on them as it did to Sen. William Proxmire when his opposition pointed out in the next years re-election that his filibuster of just under 24 hours had cost tens of thousands of tax dollars to keep the chambers open all night and light. The Senate needs to jump on the bandwagon with the House and either form a committee that sets pre appointed limits for discussing and debating a bill or topic, or they need to find another way of completely eradicating the filibuster and the incredible amount of time wasted dealing with them.
Throughout the time we have spent studying United States politics there has been one topic that I have constantly been following, that topic being gun control. After the Aurora, Colorado shooting in July, 2012 gun control has been at the epicenter of all things political. Gun control has always been such a sensitive subject to the United States due to the many times in its history where there have been mass shootings. But very recently it seems that the attention of both the media, the citizens, and the government has been on gun control and the many recent shootings. In the papers or on the internet we read about all sorts of gun laws trying to be passed in different states and cities, and when we don’t read about those its because another incident has occurred. Whether the Sikh Temple shooting, Newtown or any other of the 21 plus other shootings that have happened in 2012-2013 alone. And in the end for the politicians and the citizens it all comes back to what can we do. For the leaders of our country it seems to not be about who has the guns, but instead what guns and equipment they have. The single most important gun related debate at this time in my opinion is the possible reinstating of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
The controversial topic being considered by Congress is the possible reinstatement of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban or the AWD for short. This ban on semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns has already been in effect before from 1994 to 2004. It ended in September of 2004 and has not been renewed since. This ban was only on specifically named weapons (stated within the text of the law) or any of those three classes of weapons with two or more military styled cosmetic features. These features include folding stock, grip, bayonet, and both flash and sound suppressors. Added on to the bill this time is also the banning of gun magazines that hold in excess of 10 rounds. For the second time the writer of the origonal bill Dianne Feinstein is trying to get Congress to again pass this bill making weapons such as AR-15’s, which were used by multiple shooters in mass killing recently, and other military type assault weapons completely illegal.
However, gun advocacy groups such as the NRA as well as the many pro-gun members of both the House and Senate have spoken out against the ban and have gone so far as saying that its unconstitutional and goes against the second amendment. However, they do say that they will consider a magazine limiting law that cuts down on the amount of ammunition someone can carry. Senator of Connecticut Christopher Murphey has been about as involved as anyone could be since the recent shooting in his home state, he has said, “We do know that historically in these instances, amateurs have trouble switching magazines,” referring to the high-capacity ammunition feeding device used by Mr. Lanza, Newton shooter, and others to shoot put out more ammunition “I believe, and many of the parents there believe, that if Lanza had to switch cartridges nine times versus two times there would likely still be little boys and girls alive in Newtown today.”(article) Senator Murphey as well as many other gun advocates agree that magazine limitations is most likely the best way to cut down on unnecessary gun violence and deaths.
Hopefully before another large scale shooting occurs and more innocent people get hurt or killed the two separate sides of this argument can meet somewhere in the middle and better the gun policies and control in the United States. Whether that means banning all military assault style weapons or just limiting the amount of ammunition allowed in a single magazine for the guns, something needs to happen so this unnecessary violence can stop.