Wednesday, 9 March 2011

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: In praise of gas guzzlers [updated]

_McGRathLibertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath invites you down to his clinic for an inoculation against this week’s stories and headlines on issues affecting our freedom.

This week: In praise of gas guzzlers.

THE DOCTOR SAYS: Firstly, let’s not forget we’ve had a blowout in the money and credit supply of 8% since that record petrol price in July 2008, so the “record price”—adjusted for the inflationary policies of Labour and National governments—is actually $2.33 in today’s fiat currency. So don’t get your panties in a lather just yet.
    There’s also no need to go out and buy a scooter, or other form of two-wheeled transportation. One of my surgical colleagues refers to motorcycles as the fast track to a bed in the orthopaedic ward of your local hospital.  A donor cycle, if you will. If you’re confident on a motorbike then go for it, and good luck to you, but a lot of inexperienced motorists turning to scooters for the first time will suffer injury and lose time from work as a result of slipping over in the rain, skidding on ice and being shunted by bigger vehicles that don’t see them. Witness the huge ACC levies on motorbikes. There must be a reason for that, eh?
    Hybrid vehicles are an expensive gesture with no savings in fuel costs if you drive them on the motorway (unless you love driving in gridlock at rush hour).
    Diesels are noisy, cost more in maintenance and road user charges than petrol vehicles, and aren’t economical unless you do big mileage. I was the owner of a diesel vehicle for eighteen months. Last month I sold it, as I had reservations about the long term durability of the (French) diesel engine.
    I am now the proud owner of a gas-guzzling V8—a 1995 ex-Singapore Lexus LS400 that cost me just $8,000 by the time I had some work done on the body. I don’t need to tell you that the engineering standards and refinement of these vehicles are top-notch. But this vehicle is cheaper to run than my Suzuki Vitara 1.9 litre turbodiesel!
    When you factor in depreciation, interest on money invested in the vehicles, fuel costs, road user charges, maintenance costs, registration and obtaining warrants of fitness, the Lexus will be a thousand dollars cheaper to run this year than the Suzuki. (And that’s without adding in the cost of sorting the starter motor in the Suzuki when it broke down while on holiday in Taupo last year.)
    If you want a tidy looking V8 Lexus, officially a Toyota Celsior (which is how Lexus vehicles were originally sold in Japan), you could do a lot worse than clicking here.
    So don’t let events in the Middle East and the Greenwash about peak oil panic you into buying dangerous or expensive vehicles – splash out on a safe, luxurious and beautifully crafted second-hand Lexus. Large-engined Nissans, Mitsubishis, Toyotas or Hondas are even cheaper. With petrol prices as they now are it’s a buyer’s market, and these vehicles are so cheap!

  • DOMPOST: ‘80% rate rises in quest for fairness’Rural ratepayers could be stung with massive
    usurious rises in property taxes…

THE DOCTOR SAYS: As mentioned in a recent column, the late conservative American commentator William F Buckley once opined that anyone who used the word ‘fair’ in conjunction with income tax should be electrocuted. The same should apply to other taxes.
     In defence of the Carterton District Council however (a phrase I very rarely use) it appears a lot of money they extracted from property owners (via threats of physical retaliation) is being spent on roading in the countryside, with urban ratepayers effectively subsidising rural ones.
    I have a solution: user pays.
    Gift the roads to those who live on them using any title system you like, and make the owners responsible for their upkeep.
    Allow electronic tolling to maintain the necessary funding.
    Allow the road-owners to build (or allow) roadside retail and the like to bring in customers.
    Maintenance would be contracted out as it is now. Administrators would be accountable to shareholders. Heavy vehicles that mince up road surfaces could be charged accordingly.
    If you’re a member of the Green Party, you should support such a move, as surely this would discourage people from making unnecessary trips in their motor vehicles. Best of all, it would stop the Carterton District Council from clipping the ticket on the way in order to feed the bureaucratic ant-farm in Holloway Street.  

That’s all for now.
See you next week!
Doc McGrath

Those who expect to reap the blessings of liberty
must undergo the fatigues of supporting it.

-Thomas Paine

UPDATE 1: To put the “record price” for oil in context, reader Dinther sent me a graph based on these figures measuring the cost of a barrel of oil since that 2008 high (or very near it) measured against an ounce of gold (an ounce of gold rising roughly reciprocally to future expectations of price inflation).Oil-Gold Instructive, don’t you think?


  1. I think you are misrepresenting the facts to make your point Richard.

    Motor cycles:

    I think you need to differentiate between motor cycles and scooters which are slower. Also you seem to at least ignore the terrible way two wheelers are treated on the road. Of course there is a higher risk of injury on a two wheeler but in the case of scooters, this seems to work perfectly well in Asian cities and I can't see why not here. for many people a scooter makes a lot more sense. Also I was raised riding a scooter 23km to school every single day. (Ok I did have one crash and a sore thumb)

    There is more than just cars that can get us places. The statement "Motor bikes are dangerous" is a bit too general without looking at causes such as road design, driver attitudes (On both car and motorbike) ect.

    Hybrid vehicles:
    You need to know where to look. You can pickup a cheap <$5000 Honda Insight hybrid in Japan.

    We are talking about a high-tech (Even though it is 10 year old technology) aluminium two seater that does 28 km/liter on the motorway and stop start city traffic.

    I happened to have the car all restored in working order only recently so I am smiling at the petrol prices since I rarely stop for a re-fuel.

    My point is, that there are good economic alternatives to heavy steel structures build to lug 4 lumps of meat but rarely carrying more than one. I am pretty damn sure my driving costs are far less than yours.

  2. @Dinther. I agree. I suggest people invest, as I have, in a smart steel structure build to lug just two lumps of meat.

    Make it British, like mine, and you running costs are tiny. Especially when your car is off the road (which, being British, it will be often).

  3. Richard McGrath9 Mar 2011, 17:18:00


    Paul, I agree that motorcycles are treated badly on the road and regularly shunted at roundabouts and other places where they often become "meals on wheels". As I mentioned, I was referring more to newbies riding a scooter for the first time in heavy traffic being particularly at-risk.

    Regarding hydrid vehicles, there have been concerns over the environmental damage caused in production of the batteries, have there not?

  4. Richard McGrath9 Mar 2011, 17:24:00

    Also, and not mentioned in my article, car pooling/sharing is an obvious step to take.

  5. Gotta learn to ride some time. Unfortunately here in NZ kids are chauffeured around the place their entire childhood and then suddenly put in traffic by themselves at age 15 which has to be the worst possible age for a boy to be trusted with 2 tonnes of steel on wheels. I grew up walking, cycling and scootering all over the country before I got into a car. My hope is that the Asian influx will bring more scooters on the road so that cars can no longer pretend they are not there.

    Environmental impact of batteries. Yeah I am sure they have an impact. So does the fact that hybrids hardly use up brake-pads and emit very little pollution (Not talking CO2 by the way)

    The pack in my car lasted over 10 years and has only been fully replaced this week. The old pack will be carefully refurbished and nothing will go to waste.

    In South Auckland there is a company called The battery clinic who recycle batteries and also repaired my pack several times.

    What I am trying to say is that there is no point to isolate the battery pack and say it has an impact on the environment. Far too general as there are so many factors involved that makes it near impossible to do a decent impact study while weighing the pro's and con's

  6. Oh my that's an ugly car. There are plenty of German machines eight to fifteen years old available for a song that are much easier on the eyes than that.

  7. Richard McGrath10 Mar 2011, 14:49:00


    Bland - yes; it looks a bit nicer in the flesh than in those photos too. No doubt about German cars though, I reckon Audi are the nicest to look at. If money (and reliability) were no object, I'd probably pick a black Audi RS4 or gun metal grey BMW 540i.

  8. A couple of years back I traded in a black nine year old 750iL in top nick for $10k, and it had *everything* on it. Brilliant value for something that was probably quarter of a mill or more new. Not at all sure it was the right thing to do in hindsight.


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