Car dealers complain that they shouldn't have to stock electric and plug-in hybrid cars for which they say there is no demand. A year ago, when we needed to buy a new car, we decided on a Toyota Prius Prime. After searching on the web, I discovered there was exactly one in stock anywhere in the Twin Cities. Fortunately, it was just what I wanted, and we bought it. While I got the car I wanted, it would have been nice to have some choices. And anyone else looking at that time missed out.
Perhaps if dealers offered some variety and selections instead of a Hobson's choice, they might find more people willing to consider an EV. How can they know what the actual demand is, if there is no supply?
Lisa Farnam, Edina
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A Friday letter writer wonders how well EVs perform in very cold Minnesota winters ("Threat is misguided, but so are EVs"). My EV has a summer range of about 300 miles on a full charge and hence a winter range of about 180 miles. From Minnetonka, this allows me to go anywhere in the Twin Cities during a winter day plus errands, and I recharge overnight at home. The car heats up instantly from battery power; no waiting until an engine is warm since the car doesn't have an engine. The car gets cold sitting outside while at work, but I can heat up the cabin via an app on my phone about five minutes before leaving. Batteries in the chassis make the car very heavy, allowing me to use all-season tires with this all-wheel-drive car and never have a problem going up icy hills. While I rarely do winter road trips, they can be done but take somewhat longer than in gas cars because of increased charging time.
So, overall, my EV performs much better in the winter than my former gas-powered cars did.
Eric Bressler, Minnetonka
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A letter writer suggested that electric cars are 40% less efficient in winter. A test written about on carscoops.com suggests the number is closer to 20%. Moreover, the website fueleconomy.gov says the economy of gas-powered cars is 15% less at 20 degrees than 77 degrees, so the performance difference in cold weather is not very dramatic. The bottom line is that an electric car converts around 75% of energy consumed to the wheels, as opposed to around 20% for gas models.
Dale Kingsbury, Eagan
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There has been a lot of discussion about reducing cars in Minneapolis and using bikes or mass transit. The one problem that has not been addressed is that of having to ride at night. Many people have night or late-evening shifts that require them to travel after dark. There are many neighborhoods in which this would not be safe. Mass transit cuts trips at night, so cars are necessary. Please take this into consideration when planning transit solutions.
Phyllis Porter, Eden Prairie
Another factor: Soil
Thank you, Brian DeVore, for holding the alternative meat industry accountable for unsubstantiated claims of products being environmentally friendly ("Just let the animals roam the pastures," Opinion Exchange, April 29). Alternative meats are indeed highly processed food products and, although they may be useful for an occasional treat for those eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet, simply switching to alt-meat is not the earth-friendly answer it may seem to be.
Anyone interested in learning more about the big picture should read "Dirt to Soil," a fascinating memoir by North Dakota farmer Gabe Brown. Mr. Brown shares the story of his family farm and how they transformed the powdery, nutrient-poor dirt, which required massive use of chemicals, into rich, life-giving soil. They accomplished this through rotational grazing of their animals, planting a variety of cover crops and more. As a result, they were able to reduce their use of chemicals and achieve better production per acre, which substantially increased their income. Driving around this past week I have on several occasions noted farmers tilling their barren fields amid clouds of dirt stirred up by their plows. This is soil degradation in action. On the other hand, the kind of agriculture described by Gabe Brown is part of the climate solution. These practices will recover our soils, improve local water quality and restore farms as sustainable businesses.
Simply put, soil restoration/restorative agriculture is crucial to reducing climate change and ecological devastation all over the world. This does not answer the call to quit eating animal foods for the reason of not harming animals, but it does provide a viable approach to food production that is earth-friendlier than both factory farming and alt-meat.
Mary Bolton, Stillwater
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The Land Stewardship Project does important work though diversifying the farming workforce, reducing animal cruelty in factory farms, promoting biodiversity and protecting our water. On these metrics, grass-fed beef is definitely a better choice than beef from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). But Brian DeVore's claim that grass-fed beef has a lower carbon footprint than factory-farmed beef is overstated at best.
DeVore cites studies that suggest grass-fed beef has lower overall greenhouse gas emissions, but recent studies by Harvard and Oklahoma State University suggest the opposite. The science is murkier than he would have you believe.
Grass-fed cattle live longer, produce more methane, take more land and produce less meat per animal. Furthermore, few would suggest that grass-fed beef is up to the task of feeding a world of 8 billion people.
While it takes the continued work of dedicated researchers to determine whether grass-fed or CAFO beef has a larger carbon footprint, it's not difficult to do what we know reduces our carbon footprint: Eat fewer animal products.
We don't need to wait for sci-fi lab-grown meat to do this. We don't have to pay top dollar for expensive meat. Rice and beans are cheap and available at every grocery store.
Matthew Byrnes, Minneapolis
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I wished someone would invent another animal I could roast, fry, stew or sauté. I know that sounds awful to some and maybe familiar to others. But that's really the reason why I tried plant-based-meat ... or, as I call it, "pleat." I didn't choose it for any ecological, dietary or ethical reasons. When I was honest with myself about this, I was sort of disappointed in me. I tried it because I was getting food-bored.
I had added lots of salads to my diet, and hummus. I tried to eat with some nod to my health. But when I began seeing people seemingly enjoying an un-burger, my curiosity got the better of me.
The grocery store stocked frozen noodle bowls with chicken or pork un-meat. Brought a couple home just to see. And I was really surprised — pleasantly so. The texture was pretty spot on — tender with no hard-to-chew bits lurking in the sauce. The flavor of the chicken noodle bowl was alarmingly like chicken, and the pork, identical to its namesake.
Once having dipped my toe in the waters of (to some) sensible eating, I was sort of hooked. I tried the "beef" crumbles (good to add to chili, nachos, spaghetti), the beef burgers, the un-fish fish sticks, and the un-chicken nuggets with BBQ sauce. And I found "pleat" to be satisfying. I don't seem to get hungry so soon after a pleat meal. And take a look at the astounding fat figures on un-meat packages!
To me, the biggest upside is that the fats I don't consume as an entree I can enjoy with much less guilt in "real" ice cream, that piece of cream pie or the second slice of bacon on my un-beef burger. I find I have a "fat" account that I can draw on now and again, not all at one time. And it seems to me that now I'm making fewer deposits to my hips.
Now if I can just get past thinking of "Soylent Green."
Karen Schott, Excelsior
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