Gray Chang: ‘I expect that you are getting an avalanche of mail regarding your advice about taking Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic remedy. The good news is that it is absolutely harmless; the bad news is that it is absolutely useless. The basic principle of homeopathy is that you start with a substance that causes the same symptoms as the disease. Then you dilute it successively until there is none of it left (usually, not even one molecule). Then you consume this super-diluted medication to stimulate your body’s natural defenses to fight the disease. The main effect is on your brain, to fool it into thinking your recovery was due to the medicine, rather than just your body doing its normal job of fighting disease and getting well. There is no harm in taking the Oscillococcinum, except the hit to your pocketbook and possible distraction from doing something that might actually help, such as frequent hand-washing, avoiding crowds, and exercise.’

☞ Hey! Placebos work! Stop ruining mine!


Albert Fosha: ‘Unless you 1) Have to buy a new car because of compelling reasons such as your old one died, or 2) You’re an environmental nut and are willing to spend wildly to help Mother Earth, usually using better mileage as an excuse to buy a new car is financially illogical. For instance, I drive a 1997 Ford Contour, that gets a steady 32 mpg (as a retired engineer, with a computer and some time on my hands, every gallon of gas put in it has been recorded, and an accurate mileage record maintained; so I know that this mileage figure is correct). If it were driven 15,000 miles per year, it would consume 469 gallons of gas each year. A new car that gets 50 mpg would save 169 gallons – about $250 a year. To achieve this, I’ve spent $18,000. I’m not nearly enough of an environmental whacko to do that.’

☞ It makes no sense for people to junk perfectly good cars to buy new ones they don’t need. But for the millions who will be buying new cars each year? They may as well get 50 or 60 miles to the gallon rather than 25.

Russell Turpin: ‘I drive a car that gets 10 mpg. It’s a 1981 Olds 98. Yeah, I’d like to have a car with better gas mileage. But this car has proven terribly reliable, requiring little more than normal maintenance for years. Economically, I’m far better off keeping this car than buying another, even if I do spend a little more in gas. But yeah, when I do need to get my next car — not any time soon, I hope! — I think I’ll bite the bullet and buy one that gets at least 20 mpg. Even if I have to buy one that was built within the last ten years. I’ll do my part to save gas. I’m just on the cheap, trailing edge of the curve.’

Rob Myhre: ‘The Honda Insight was next to impossible to obtain when I was last looking for a car. I ended up buying a 1997 Geo Metro with 30k miles for $5000. It gets 45 mpg. Not as good as an Insight, but pretty darn good. And it can carry 4 people and it was $15000 cheaper. (Not much of a babe magnet, though. Babe repulsive, more likely.)’

John Evert: ‘Guess what, Andy. The switch to ‘dramatically more efficient vehicles’ ain’t gonna happen. You can’t pry these people out of their 12 mpg SUVs because 50 mpg has absolutely no meaning for them. I just sat next to one of them who left her ENGINE RUNNING for at least 10 MINUTES while she waited for her pizza! (No, it wasn’t over 90 or below 30 where one might want AC or heat; it was a balmy 72.) I sat in my Honda Civic with the engine off, aching to go over and demand, ‘What the &%$# are you thinking?’ But I didn’t.’

☞ Good thing, too, road rage (even at idle) being what it is. But I like to think people can be educated. A shift in our taxing priorities would also make great sense: make gas cost what it does in Europe and Japan, and use all that revenue to lower the income and Social Security tax. You’ll encourage work and investment; discourage energy consumption.

Y. Tony Lee: ‘If the US can improve its diesel fuel quality, we can have the VW Lupo, which gets 90 miles to the gallon.’

☞ Obviously, not everyone is going to drive these little bugs, let alone the versions VW projects a few years out that will get 190 miles to the gallon. But it is clearly within our grasp over the next decade, if we care to, to cut our dependence on foreign oil, and our trade imbalance, and our pollution, way, way back.


Andrea Marcucci: ‘No discussion of improving energy efficiency and reducing dependency on foreign oil is complete without mentioning geothermal heating and cooling. It’s great for both new homes and retrofits of older homes.’

☞ Click here for an introduction to this technology – even a little animation that shows how it works.


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