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 | Father Mark Pautler

On the Road II

I like cars. I’m not in the same class as my nephews, Justin and Joseph, who inherited their father’s ardor for the automobile. But cars interest me. So, during the Christmas holiday while visiting my sister in Reno, Nevada, I was delighted to accompany Joe and Jus to the Tesla dealership, where Joseph had scheduled a test drive. Tesla, as you probably know, manufactures the world’s premier electric vehicle, or at least they have created this impression. It is impressive.

We wandered around the display floor with its exhibits of the Tesla chassis and battery modules while an agent waited on a couple who were actually interested in buying a car. Then he turned his attention to us. The prime issue with the electric vehicle is “range anxiety,” and whether you can find enough juice on a long-distance drive. “Give me a destination,” the agent said. “All right, Bismarck, North Dakota,” I said. He lit up the Tesla’s mammoth digital display showing the route to Bismarck and the network of Tesla charging stations on the way. Yes, we could drive that far. The last available charge before Bismarck will get you there with 9 percent power remaining, he said. That cuts it a little close.

We weren’t headed for Bismarck, just for a 15-minute test drive. “You go first, Uncle Mark,” my nephews urged. I signed the waiver that probably said Tesla is not responsible for accident or injury and “If you break it, you’ve bought it.” My brother-in-law, Vince, rode with me and guided me onto Interstate 580. We drove about four miles to an exit and returned to the dealer on city streets. Driving a Tesla was, how should I say it, OK, only better. Acceleration is electrifying. One feels there is a reservoir of power you barely touch at a mere 60-70 mph. And, the car is very, very quiet. I’ll take it … right back to the dealership for the others to take a turn at the wheel.

I recall the announcement of Tesla’s Model 3 in 2016. For a $1,000 deposit, you could reserve your place in line for a Tesla with a price that’s not out of sight, $35,000. That’s where it starts. I have noticed how Friday’s car column in the newspaper lists the base price of a test vehicle and the “as tested” price, which is sometimes twice as much.

Under the inspiration of Laudato Si’, shouldn’t I do my part to reduce my carbon footprint?

Advances have been made in the production of non-polluting energy and in the improvement of public transportation. These achievements do not solve global problems, but they do show that men and women are still capable of intervening positively. (LS 58)

We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels — especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas — needs to be progressively replaced without delay. (LS 165)

Alas, I must question whether my consumption of another automobile, even an electric vehicle, is in the spirit of Laudato Si.’ So, for the time being, I will stick with my reliable Honda. However, with the return of spring and the pedestrian/bicycle bridge connecting the University District to south Spokane, I can cycle to the Chancery at its new location. Maybe I can stamp out the little toe of my carbon footprint.