Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dateline Woodstock:
Here in Vermont, you can't turn on the radio or television without hearing about spiraling fuel costs and the affect they are having on everyday life. It's probably not that much different where you live. Vermonters have a long history of living with a light footprint and turning to their own devices when other resources come into short supply. After all, every October for the past several millennia, the ground in Woodstock freezes solid, everything growing suddenly stops, and our world goes into a mild state of hibernation. So we're quite used to spending at least part of our lives in energy conservation mode. A surprising number of Vermonters are actively pursuing ways to reduce their carbon footprint, whether for themselves, or for society at large. Around town, woodpiles are growing daily. According to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, our state leads the nation for the most number of hybrid vehicles per capita. At a local country fair last weekend, the space allocated to "Hybrids Park Here" was almost as large as "Everyone Else Park Here." From their offices at the Woodstock Squat and Gobble (our local diner), Jacob Hammond and his brother Jeb have been discussing ways to reduce the cost of air travel. Jacob says he's been in touch with some "major airlines" about his plan to have every airliner fly 10,000 feet higher. Besides reducing wind resistance at that altitude, Jacob figures that the average plane will save 18% on fuel consumption by simply gliding the last hour of every flight. Jeb disagrees. According to his detailed calculations, flying at 40,000 feet is equivalent to hugging the outside of every curve at the NASCAR finals, and Jake's idea will have planes actually flying a longer distance of 28%. So Jeb favors a flight path that stays as close to the ground as possible, thus reducing the actual distance traveled. He figures this could be about 6 feet in places like Kansas and Oklahoma, but agrees that a "safe height" would be considerably greater in places like Vermont, Montana, and Wyoming. We're not sure that either Jacob or Jeb have found the secret to reducing aviation fuel consumption. You will have to agree that, as fuel costs increase, there is a remarkable (and gratifying) interest in developing alternative ways of getting by -- just like Vermonters do every October.

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