Episode 51: Getting the Car Out of Carbon Emissions

 

[ARCHIVE CLIP, GMC ad: Introducing the world’s first all electric super truck, the revolutionary GMC Hummer EV. With no limits, no emissions and no equals, it will leave everything you thought possible in a cloud of dust. The quiet revolution begins with the nearly silent, all-electric propulsion system that offers 1,000 horsepower, 11,500-pound feet of torque. And for the brave souls who dare to engage watts to freedom, the thrill of accelerating zero to 60 in approximately three seconds.]

Aaron Naparstek: Hello and welcome to The War on Cars, the podcast that is not about the US presidential election. I am Aaron Naparstek. And yes, that was the voice of BoJack Horseman, otherwise known as actor Will Arnett, trying to sell you a battery-operated version of the infamous Hummer SUV. The Hummer, of course, is the gigantic, boxy sport utility vehicle based on a US military vehicle called the Humvee, infamous for high ground clearance and terrible driver visibility. The Hummer first invaded American streets in 1992 after its namesake’s starring role in the first Persian Gulf War: Operation Desert Storm.

Aaron: The Hummer has long been the vehicle brand that best embodies petro-masculinity, the idea that driving something enormous and intimidating, burning lots of gasoline, and pretending this is somehow patriotic is an integral part of one’s sense of American manhood. If you wanted to pretend like you were a US soldier driving through an occupied city, the Hummer was for you.

Aaron: Transportation is now the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. To the extent that we have any cars and trucks at all—and America currently has about 275 million of them, they have to stop burning gas. We need to be running our cars and trucks on clean, renewable energy. And so here we are in 2020. And on the one hand, big automakers finally seem to be marketing electric vehicles in a serious way. On the other hand, Big Auto is doing what it always does. It’s giving us a gigantic truck that costs $115,000 starting price, that goes zero to 60 in three seconds, that guzzles energy, that plays LED light animations in the front grille. And …

[ARCHIVE CLIP, GMC ad: But we didn’t stop there. With a revolutionary new setting called “crabwalk,” Hummer EV has the ability to drive diagonally, for an agility no other truck can match.]

Aaron: Crabwalk. They know you’re not gonna be able to parallel park this thing, so it drives sideways. So is this what the future of the electric car looks like? The E-Hummer? Are we simply going to try to run the energy-intensive, automobile-centric 20th-century American way of life on electricity rather than gas? To help me sort some of this out, I knew that I had one car-owning friend that I could talk to. The most electro-masculine guy I know.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Tom Bodett: Hi, Tom Bodett. Next time you’re standing in the airport security line with your shoes in a bin, your toothpaste in a baggie and your unmentionables appearing live on an X-ray screen, think about this: you could have driven. And because gas prices have made that more expensive than ever, stop at Motel 6. You’ll get a great room for the lowest price of any national chain, and we don’t charge extra for your luggage. I’m Tom Bodett for Motel 6, and we’ll leave the light on for you. Book online at Motel6.com.]

Aaron: If you don’t spend a lot of time driving around rural and suburban America listening to a car radio, in other words, if you’re someone who listens to this podcast, then you might not know who Tom Bodett is. Tom is an author, storyteller and radio personality. These days, you can hear him on NPR’s weekend game show Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! with host Peter Sagal. Since 1986, Tom has been the advertising pitchman for Motel 6, ending every commercial with that trademark catchphrase.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Tom Bodett: I’m Tom Bodett for Motel 6, and we’ll leave the light on for you.]

Aaron: Pretty good work if you can get it. Tom was born in Sturgis, Michigan, in 1955, as he likes to point out, in the dead center of the baby boom. In the early 1970s, Tom dropped out of college, headed west to Oregon, and eventually ended up in Alaska working construction. He started writing a column for a newspaper in Anchorage. That led to a gig telling stories on Alaska’s relatively new National Public Radio station. Soon enough, Tom’s popular radio pieces were being broadcast nationally. An advertising executive in Texas thought Tom’s folksy voice and sense of humor would be perfect for a new campaign they were putting together for a discount motel chain. And America’s longest-running advertising pitchman gig was born. These days, Tom lives with his wife, Rita Ramirez, and their two teenage sons in a big house on a beautiful hill in Dummerston, Vermont. And that is where I met Tom back in August.

Aaron: Oh, how’s it going?

Tom Bodett: Good. How are you?

Aaron: Good. Welcome to The War on Cars.

Tom Bodett: Thank you. Yeah. I’m glad you found a place to park. You’re losing your war up here badly.

Aaron: I’ve been friends with Tom for about a decade now, and I wanted to talk to him for this episode for two reasons. First, because he’s not really on our side of the war on cars. In fact, I think Tom thinks that #Bancars is a little bit nuts. Tom unabashedly is a car guy. And here’s how he self identifies.

Tom Bodett: I am your average ass, you know? I am like the generic American. I actually fit in airline seats. They’re designed for me. And so if I’m feeling and thinking a certain way, you can almost bet it’s like the middle of the paradigm.

Aaron: The second reason I wanted to talk to my average-ass, generic American car owner friend? Because Tom has the most incredible off-the-grid clean energy setup I’ve ever seen in someone’s own home. When Tom first bought this big house on a windblown Vermont hill, it burned through tanks of home heating oil. Today, it runs entirely on solar and geothermal energy. Tom is the earliest and most extreme adopter to clean energy that I personally know. And now he is moving to a new phase of his project. A few months ago, he bought an electric car, and now he generates his own electricity for transportation, too. So I wanted to get a sense of how Tom’s doing it, what it’s like, and what the rest of us might learn from his experience. But before we get to all that, a word from our sponsor.

Doug Gordon: Hi. Doug Gordon here for Cleverhood. You know, if I had a nickel for every person who said you can’t bike in the rain, maybe I wouldn’t want to take advantage of a great offer just for War on Cars listeners. If you need to stay dry on your commute and look good doing it, go to Cleverhood.com/waroncars, and enter code “waroncars” to get 20 percent off your purchase of stylish rain gear. I’m Doug Gordon, and we’ll leave a blinky light on for you.

Aaron: So here’s the first thing you need to know about Tom’s net zero clean energy project: he has no interest in showing off how frugal of an environmentalist he is. He is not looking to make sacrifices or be uncomfortable here.

Tom Bodett: I had a different goal in mind with this project, which was to demonstrate that you could live a big, fat pig American lifestyle, and still have a zero-carbon footprint. That you didn’t have to drive a Prius and eat kale every night in order to be a good, you know, environmental citizen. Because I think that’s important.

Aaron: In fact, it was the purchase of a big fat SUV that got Tom going on his path to net zero carbon emissions.

Tom Bodett: And I came to that when Toyota came out with their first hybrid Highlander. We got one, and it was a great car. And they took a lot of criticism because they put all that saved energy into torque in those electric motors, which made it, like, super fun to drive, which I thought was so smart because a certain person is always gonna go out and buy the Prius, right? But if you take something like a Highlander and put big torque in it, so a guy can get in that car and load up all his camping stuff and torque on down the highway, you’re gonna get a different kind of fan to green technology. Now granted, that probably didn’t save tons of carbon in the long run, but it’s baby steps, right? You get them in a little bit at a time. Like, I went from that Highlander to a completely net-zero house and I’m driving a Tesla now. So it took me 10 years to get here, but that was what got me started down this road is like, oh, anybody can be green. The American lifestyle can be green without completely changing it.

Aaron: Tom traces his own greening and the dawning of his environmental consciousness back to Alaska. He was there when the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground and spilled 11 million gallons of crude in Prince William Sound.

Tom Bodett: I’ll tell you that the oil spill of 1989 when I was there, and it broke not just my heart, but everyone’s hearts up there to see that environment so completely devastated by this oil. Without a hope of clean—it was never cleaned up. It’s still there. I mean, there’s asphalt underneath the clam beaches, and it was like 900 miles of coastline. It’s like if you oiled the entire West Coast from Seattle to San Diego. It was heartbreaking. And what it did for me was, I’d lived in Alaska since I was a young man. I was 21 years old, and I was as big a pig as any, because that frontier spirit, you know, is just like we were pigs, right? We didn’t really respect it. And part of that came from it was a scary place. Like, we weren’t gonna kill Alaska, Alaska was going to kill us. So there was never that sense of having to really steward it, because it was the alpha, right? And the oil spill totally changed that for me, where all of a sudden I saw this beautiful, awesome, magnificent place—you run out of adjectives very quickly—injured and on its heels. And it changed me. I realized we can wreck this place really easily. And that’s why I’m doing this.

Aaron: We walk over to Tom’s solar farm. It’s huge. Three arrays of panels on a south-facing hill, each about 60 feet long. 164 solar panels total.

Tom Bodett: I have 38 kilowatts of capacity here. It’s a beautiful, sunny day in early August. So it’s probably gonna be a close to capacity day, probably something around 90 percent of that. A good day is, like, 200 kilowatt hours of power generated in a day. And I’ve produced 440 megawatts of power since this went in. That equates to 1.4-million miles in an electric car. I mean, think of that. Over 10 years, that’s putting over 100,000 miles a year on a car. If I was only charging cars with this, we could have 10 cars up here driving on this. And it’s just sunlight that would otherwise be falling on the field. I mean, it’s just free. It’s free money. [laughs] I’m 10 years into this. It’s generated about $70,000 in local rates worth of electricity, and it paid for itself last year.

Aaron: Most of the electricity that Tom produces goes toward heating his house in winter and cooling the bedrooms on the hottest days of summer. He also heats an outdoor swimming pool. Up to now, the system has typically generated more electricity than Tom and his family can actually use.

 

Aaron: So you were actually making money from the electric company?

Tom Bodett: Oh, yeah. In fact, for the first five to six years, I had a cash credit running in there. Instead of storing my excess energy in a battery, I was storing it in the bank. Because every month I was generating more than I was buying. But then in the winter, that would generally fall off. Through the course of the winter, I would use up that credit.

Aaron: The addition of the electric car has pushed Tom’s solar system to the point where he is now consuming as much and sometimes more electricity than he actually produces, for the first time.

Tom Bodett: Right. I’m finally using what we’re making. I mean, we were crazy. We were just like, you know, we have a swimming pool out back that we heat with our heat pumps and with solar energy. Like I say, we live like the biggest, fattest pig you can imagine. And I know your listeners really appreciate that. You love us because we’re like this. And it’s just like it’s all sunbeams and rainbow that’s making it work.

Aaron: From across the yard, Tom taps an app on his phone to get the air conditioner started up inside of his car. It’s a Tesla Model Y. It has Biden 2020 stickers on both the front and back bumpers. We walk over to it.

Tom Bodett: You hear that purring sound? That’s …

Aaron: Let me hear it.

Tom Bodett: That’s the heat pump.

Aaron: Oh yeah.

Tom Bodett: And that is noisier than they would like it. The users are—Tesla users are wackjobs, all of them, all of us are. And we get it from the top. It’s all leadership.

Aaron: Yeah, absolutely.

Tom Bodett: And everyone’s complaining about that sound, that it’s too noisy. And they get it. They’re gonna try to figure out a way to wrap that motor better. And it doesn’t bother me because I’m still in love. Let’s get in.

Aaron: Tom, there’s no door handle.

Tom Bodett: Yeah, right? Push with your thumb. Isn’t that smart?

Aaron: Yikes. Wow.

Tom Bodett: Once you get used to it, you wonder why they’re all not like that.

Aaron: Tom guides the car down his driveway and onto a dirt road. He used to be a town elected official on his local select board. He spent inordinate amounts of time dealing with road gravel-related issues.

Tom Bodett: So here’s a gravel road. If you were in a car that had this much torque that wasn’t a Tesla and you punched it, you would be smoking out all over the place, right?

Aaron: Tom punches it, and I am reminded how much I prefer driving a car to being the passenger of a car when I have to be in a car.

Tom Bodett: And this just …

Aaron: Oh my God.

Tom Bodett: … just goes. It’s got …

Aaron: That really is …

Tom Bodett: And that’s on gravel. You can’t make it spin out. It just won’t do it. Oh, another great thing about the Tesla, you can make it so that your teenage sons can’t die.

Aaron: How do you do that?

Tom Bodett: You can set speed limits. You can set the reactivity of the accelerator where you can mellow it out so they won’t be tempted to go out and do what I just did. And you can set a top speed. You know, if you want to put 70 miles an hour on it or whatever, and they can’t undo it.

Aaron: So there’s parental controls, like it’s a TV or something?

Tom Bodett: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Aaron: As we approach an intersection with a two-lane, paved state highway, Tom flips the car into autopilot mode to show me how the car reacts to a stop sign.

Tom Bodett: Here, let me put it in auto-cruise. We’re coming down the hill to a stop sign. Watch, we’re gonna run out into traffic and die. But it’ll be great sound.

Aaron: Yeah, exactly.

Tom Bodett: It’s warning me. Stopping for traffic in 400 feet. So it’s seeing it, it knows it’s there. Here it comes.

Aaron: Oh, wow.

Tom Bodett: I’m doing nothing here.

Aaron: That’s crazy. That’s so interesting. So that was not you braking.

Tom Bodett: I didn’t do anything.

Aaron: Tom has opted into Tesla’s fleet learning program. So every time he drives, his car’s data is uploaded to the company to help improve the autopilot features of every other Tesla car on the road.

Aaron: Any sense of how well it does with pedestrians and bicyclists?

Tom Bodett: Yes. In fact, that’s another area where I think it needs to be improved. It’s too sensitive. It will brake too quickly. Like, if you’re turning onto a street and there’s a pedestrian on the corner, it’ll interpret it often as being in your path when they’re on the sidewalk, and it will hit the brake. So it needs development, but it is erring on the right side of things.

Aaron: At least we can all agree that the autopilot is erring on the right side here and not running people over. We turn onto the highway. There are no other cars around, and Tom activates “ludicrous mode.” I am pressed back into the seat as we accelerate rapidly. Tom says he’s only ever really had a need for ludicrous mode one time as he was merging onto a highway. Next, Tom demonstrates the car’s “fart on demand” feature. This makes whoopee cushion noises come out of the speakers beneath individual seats. It’s hilarious, he says, but only once. As luck would have it, I didn’t get a good recording. With all the high-tech Easter eggs, it’s easy to forget that this $50,000 climate-controlled computer on wheels is ultimately intended to be used for pretty mundane purposes.

Tom Bodett: Now we’re just driving. I mean, this is the other thing that can be a little bit of a let down about a Tesla is that at the end of it all, they’re a car, and it just takes you somewhere where you can go. And it’s just like, “Oh, where is the magic?”

Aaron: Wait, you’re saying I’m just in Brattleboro now?

Tom Bodett: Right, yeah. There’s still a dentist’s appointment at the other end of this ride, you know?

Aaron: So if the goal is ultimately to get millions of Americans to their dentist appointments safely, efficiently, inexpensively and without melting Greenland’s ice sheets in the process, is an electric car really the right personal mobility technology to do that?

Andrew Salzburg: We’re gonna have cars in 2050. And to the extent we have them, they need to be electric. And we can talk about that more. But if you want to make 100 percent of cars electric by 2050 or earlier, that means you basically have to get rid of any new cars that aren’t electric pretty soon.

Aaron: This is Andrew Salzburg. He is the head of policy at Transit App in Montreal, Quebec, his hometown. He is also the author of a newsletter called Decarbonizing Transportation. We’ll put a link to it in the show notes.

Andrew Salzburg: And that’s what you saw in California a couple of weeks ago. Gavin Newsom has put out essentially an executive order that would ban the sale of new internal combustion engine cars by 2035. And that’s about as late as you can let it go if you want to be close to 100 percent electric by 2050.

Aaron: Andrew has been working with transportation policy makers and cities around the world for 15 years. He launched Decarbonizing Transportation because, while he saw lots of cities developing climate plans and lots of mayors calling themselves climate mayors, very few governments were laying out the specific steps they would take to get to net-zero carbon emissions in their cities.

Andrew Salzburg: And rarely do you find someone saying, “Here’s a city. Here’s the New York metro area or Toronto, and here’s how we’re gonna go from where we are to zero. And here’s the combination of things that are gonna get us there, and here’s how much they’re each gonna help.” And obviously, we’re not very good at predicting the future, but to me, it’s very rare that someone takes all the individual pieces we’re talking about and adds them up and says, “Is this enough? Is this gonna work? And is it gonna get to zero?” And that doesn’t happen very often. And I think if you look at the energy part of this problem, the electric production part, those people are really deep in the weeds on kind of quantitative models of what it would take to get to a fully zero emission grid. And I feel like transportation is just kind of nowhere near that level of conversation. So that was what felt like was missing to me.

Aaron: Working on transportation policy across many different cities, Andrew sees the same problem over and over: mayors announcing ambitious climate goals, and voters who seem enthusiastic, but when it comes time to implement climate-friendly transportation policies on the local level, plans fall apart and political will evaporates.

Andrew Salzburg: I think a lot of people now agree that we should be net zero by 2050 or 2040 or whatever your date is. But when you start to get down to the specifics and you say, “Well, we’re gonna take away your parking space or we’re gonna make your car be half as big and make it electric, or we’re gonna have you take transit,” people might be less excited. There’s famous examples that have been covered where, you know, mayors signed up to be climate mayors, and simultaneously were working on massive highway widening projects, for instance. And it’s hard to do the math to make those things fit together.

Aaron: Andrew believes that we need to get much more ambitious, specific and quantitative about what it will take to eliminate carbon emissions from the transportation system. That if we really want to be net zero by 2050, it will require what he calls policy radicalism.

Andrew Salzburg: I think, obviously, if you want to talk about alternatives to the car, you know, policy radicalism can look like anything from actually overcoming local opposition to higher density near transit, right? I lived in San Francisco for a couple of years, and there’s obviously a lot of opposition to anybody building more housing near transit. There’s been a lot of contentious debate there, but I think we have to overcome that more or less immediately to have any kind of hope of urban development playing a significant role in lowering transport emissions.

Andrew Salzburg: And the same can be said on transit. Right now, we’re fighting in the middle of COVID just to maintain transit at the share that it was. But as a share of overall travel pre-pandemic, public transportation was, you know, 2.5 percent of overall travel, and close to half of that was in the New York metro area. So if you want to expand that, if you want to double that or more, to make that a more significant share, that would be, you know, an increased ambition level within the public transport in the US that we haven’t seen maybe ever, or certainly for a very long time. So I think no matter what your mode of transportation that you want to see is the anchor of decarbonization, we’re gonna need to do a lot more than we’ve been doing for the last couple of decades.

Aaron: So where does the electrification of the automobile fit in? Are electric cars a big part of the solution? Or are they more of a big distraction from the actual solutions?

Andrew Salzburg: I try my best to take as much of a neutral approach as I can, and say that we have to get to zero, and there may be places where, you know, literally you can ban cars and that could be 80 percent of your decarbonization path is limiting cars, getting them off the streets, getting people to give up car ownership. I think that’s very achievable in some places. But I think if you look at the national picture in the United States, which again is not the whole world, it’d be hard to argue that electric cars are not gonna be a large part of the answer. Because if you just look at the way places are laid out in most parts of the country, it’s hard to imagine super high-quality transit. So to me, yes, we should think about reducing car use, we should think about changing development patterns. But there’s gonna be a lot of cars left. And so we should make them electric, and we should do that soon.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, GMC ad: Understand strength is never enough. Evolving, imaging. Seeing the world not as it is, but how it could be. That’s how true greatness is realized. That is how you change the world.]

Aaron: Did you recognize that voice? That’s bicycle commuter and four-time NBA champion LeBron James kicking off the Hummer EV launch event last week. That, he says, is how you change the world. Is it? When I look at the Hummer EV, I don’t really see the world evolving or changing as much as LeBron does. I see General Motors essentially selling us the same old stuff it’s been selling for the last three decades, this time with some green wrapping paper around it. But of course that’s what I see, I’m a co-host of The War on Cars. so I thought I would check in just one more time with my average-ass generic American male friend to see what he thinks of the Hummer EV.

Aaron: Hi, Tom. Thanks for letting me bother you again for our podcast.

Tom Bodett: Yeah, always a pleasure.

Aaron: You know, and I appreciate your willingness to humor us on this, because I know that technically you’re not really on our side of the war on cars, but I actually think that’s why your insights are so valuable here. It’s kind of like intelligence gathering for us, or just …

Tom Bodett: Well, that’s exactly how I see myself. It’s like I am on your side, but I’m sort of like in deep cover, you see?

Aaron: As you’ll recall, Tom’s journey toward a net-zero lifestyle started with a hybrid gas electric Toyota SUV called the Highlander. So I wanted to know, does he think it’s possible that the Hummer EV could move his fellow average-ass car guys in the same direction?

Tom Bodett: Yes. I mean, my answer is yes. Is it obscene? Yes. Is it unnecessary? Of course. But what the Highlander did is it brought me, average Joe American consumer, into the EV realm somewhat because, you know, it was a hybrid. And it got me interested, and I felt like I was part of sort of a new team. And then, you know, that was kind of simultaneous with some of the incentives for solar installations and things. So I started looking into that. “Huh. I wonder if I can drive an SUV that runs on electric, if I could have my big energy-sucking house on a windblown Vermont hill run by electric? Wow! Look, it turns out you could.” So I did. And so what it did is it brought me into the fold. I understand the revulsion, I really do. And it’s just like, how can we possibly put three tons of metal on the street driven by electric and call that any kind of victory. But you meet a car owner halfway by saying, “Hey, you can still have a really fun, cool car and not burn gas and oil.”

Aaron: Tom doesn’t actually think GM is going to sell very many $115,000 Hummer EVs. In fact, he sees it as kind of a gimmick, and not just a gimmick to sell cars, but a gimmick to promote a new industry.

Tom Bodett: It’s like there’s not gonna be that many of them, right? And, you know, it’s gonna be measured in the thousands, if that. But what it’s gonna lead to is, because it’s truck technology and they’re a heavy vehicle, that suddenly you’re gonna be seeing all the service trucks and all of the other ways that that technology can be applied, and you’ll start making real progress where all of a sudden the carpenters with the lumber racks and all that are in electric trucks. And that’s where I think the positive benefit is going to be. It’s PR, is what it is. I think it’s PR for the EV industry. And once you get people in the EV industry, then they’re thinking like, “Wow, I can’t make my own gasoline, but I can make my own electricity.” And so I think it’s gonna promote the whole alternative energy universe. And once you get there, I think you’ve got a really good start on the rest of it.

Aaron: As it happened, Andrew Salzberg and I were talking on the very day that GM launched its crabwalking, 1,000 horsepower PR vehicle.

Andrew Salzburg: I think the E-Hummer, it feels like it was created in a lab to have us have this conversation. I feel like the Hummer in its earlier incarnation was the car that was a stand in for everyone who didn’t like cars and hated car culture. It was kind of just the nice catchphrase for all the stuff you didn’t like. And now you take that same car, same name, and you make it electric. You know, there’s one lens of, is that good or bad for transport decarbonization in a kind of narrow sense that we should talk about.

Andrew Salzburg: But the other answer is there’s a lot of things we care about in transportation that have nothing to do with decarbonization. And on those, the Hummer is obviously terrible, right? It seems well-equipped to do terrible damage to pedestrians. It’s, you know, an expensive vehicle that consumes a ton of space. It has all kinds of problems that are bad for the kind of streets we want to see that are actually safe for people to walk around on. So I think the Hummer, when it’s electric, doesn’t even attempt to solve any of the problems we have with the Hummer that have nothing to do with climate change. When I say we should reduce the number of cars we have and electrify what’s left, ideally we’d also make them smaller, lighter vehicles that are less likely to murder pedestrians by running them over, that consume less energy, because even if power is renewable, it has to be generated somewhere, and we know that’s not easy. So, you know, it illustrates that electric cars can be still quite bad.

Aaron: So that seems like the right spot to end this one. Thanks for listening. And here’s to figuring out what transportation and climate policy radicalism looks like where you live, and to doing it fast.

Aaron: If you like what we’re doing here at The War on Cars, please pitch in a few dollars via Patreon. Go to Thewaroncars.org and click on “Become a Patreon supporter.” Help fund the war effort and we will send you stickers and t-shirts, and you will have access to bonus episode content available nowhere else. Special thanks to our top Patreon sponsors: the law office of Vaccaro and White in New York, Charley Gee of Human Powered Law in Portland, Oregon, Drew Raines and Virginia Baker.

Aaron: You can rate and review The War on Cars on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Email us at thewaroncars@gmail.com. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @thewaroncars.

Aaron: This episode was produced by me, Aaron Naparstek. It was edited by Ali Lemer. Our theme music is by Nathaniel Goodyear, and our logo is by Dani Finkel of Crucial D. Design. On behalf of my co-hosts Sarah Goodyear and Doug Gordon—who really don’t like electric cars—I am Aaron Naparstek. And this is The War on Cars. All cars.

Doug Gordon: Hi. Doug Gordon here for Cleverhood. You know, if I had a nickel for every person who said you can’t bike in the rain, maybe I wouldn’t want to take advantage of a great offer just for War on Cars listeners. If you need to stay dry on your commute and look good doing it, go to Cleverhood.com/waroncars and enter code “waroncars” to get 20 percent off your purchase of stylish rain gear. I’m Doug Gordon, and we’ll leave a blinky light on for you.

 

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! host Peter Sagall: Anyway, this week we read about a new international crime gang on the scene. Panelists are each going to tell you about it. Only one of them, of course, is telling the truth. Pick that real story of international crime and you’ll win our prize: Carl Kassel’s voice on your voicemail.]

 

[ARCHIVE CLIP, contestant: Awesome.]

 

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Peter Sagall: All right. Here we go. First, let’s hear from Tom Bodett.]

 

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Tom Bodett: Spring break on Mexico’s Baja Coast accounts for half of the annual revenue of their visitor industry. The other half is largely made up of expat American retirees living out their golden years in the luxury of their beachfront condos, street-smart golf carts and water aerobics. The two groups are natural enemies, so retirees Richard Course and Travis Mason and Aaron Naparstek figured out a way to profit from the conflict of interest with what can only be described as a protection racket. Protection from them. Nothing repels a young, drunk college kid with their parents’ credit card from a bar like a pair of golf carts parked out front. And nothing clears a hotel pool faster than the site of baggy arms in a rubber swimsuit. So the self-described “Prostate posse,” or “The gang who couldn’t pee straight” work the mean streets of Cabo …]