As you’ll recall, back before the running and the freecycling and the e-petitioning and the Nepal Diarying and Nepal diarrheaing I was banging on about buying a car. I’d looked into emissions and fuel types and hybrids and because I wrote it on the way to the airport bound for Nepal I ended up with a really lousy title pun, the kind of shit The Sun would turn down for being insufficiently cerebral: Emission impossible. Seriously. And that was before the jet-lag and the bowel problems set in, there’s really no excuse.
Having looked online and realised my budget put me in the shopping trolley tier of the market I took myself off to a shabby used car place in a shabby part of town and came away with a slightly rickety thing with an engine boasting embarrassingly high emissions of 145g per kilometre. But all was not lost; it was a diesel. Basically, I scored points for trying but made a bit of a mess of it.
But then came an exciting development. The guy who sold me the car told me about a nearby place that converts diesels to run on biofuel. There I’d be, driving around on chip fat, spewing more or less nothing into the environment and looking down on everyone around me. That’d be full-on proper Zeroing, that would, the type of thing to make a Butterfly, the type of thing to make Al Gore answer my letters and finally consent to his becoming my wife. Four days later the car stopped working. How I laughed.
But all was not lost. After all, we had a month’s warranty on at least some bits of the car. I crawled it back to the shabby part of town and drove into the shabby used car lot to find no cars, a locked portacabin and some guy from a car wash telling me they’d ceased trading. At this point I did start to think all probably was lost. However, all those years of research for other parts of The Zero weren’t for nothing and I turned my skills to tracking them down. With a bit of help from Google I had a mobile number which went to a guy who had another mobile number which went to a guy who had my money. He told me to drive to his mechanic and get the car looked at. I asked what his place was called. He said it didn’t have a name as such. I asked what street it was on. He told me it wasn’t a street as such. With his directions in hand I limped the car to an even shabbier part of town, knowing fine well I was just about to get mugged, whacked or otherwise molested. Turns out the car’s turbo was done. Turns out it’d cost more than the price of the car to get it fixed. Turns out it wasn’t covered by the warranty. How I laughed.
With thoughts of the environmental impact of my vehicle more towards the back of my mind I had a robust conversation with the dealer who offered to scrap it for me and find a replacement at more or less no additional cost. At this point he had my money and my car, and I had no leverage whatsoever; a wise move on my part. He took two weeks and yesterday offered me a slightly flimsy boy racer blue thing with an equally massive engine, higher emissions of 156g per kilometre and a petrol engine meaning no chance of converting to chip fat. It was fairly unattractive, very polluting and needed more money put into it. I took it. And I don’t want to hear a thing from Al or any other Gores about the harm I’ve done to this or any other so-called planet.
There are times when this do-gooding lark is too pricey for the likes of me. It’s often an excuse, like when stingy people complain they don’t want to pay an extra 7p for a Fairtrade orange. But then it’s often not an excuse, like when poor people can’t pay an extra two quid for environmentally friendly washing liquid. I’m only half poor and only temporarily but this whole car thing didn’t come with a lot of choice. At some point I’ll get a Prius or a Leaf or a Duracell on wheels and drive around like a Planeteer but only when I’ve got the money it takes. Until then I’m driving this thing and feeling slightly crap about it.
Photo credit: Columbia Pictures