In 2016 SB Sandy and I traveled to San Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize under the auspices of OAT (Outdoor Adventure Travel) Tours. It was an eye-opener of a trip. By that I mean it opened our eyes to what planetary and cultural damage has been done by corporations and the United States Government in the guise of security, progress, and humanity. That, of course, is a subject worthy of a multi-volume book to be penned by someone much more qualified than this humble gorilla, so I will limit my discussion of chicken buses and why they are relevant.
Chicken buses are former school buses from the US that have passed what we consider to be their useful life, having logged at least 150,000 miles. New school buses can cost up $290,000, depending on type and features. The market in the US has determined that it is not cost effective to recycle or refurbish these, so they are auctioned off to third-world countries for an average of $2,000 apiece. These buses then make their ways south, towards destinations in Central or South America. They are taken to what we would call chop shops where they are refitted, refurbished, and tricked out and put back into service where they form the backbone of the public transportation system. Here’s a picture of me visiting a chicken bus refurbishing shop:
Just kidding. Here I am, wearing a travel shirt that probably cost as much as this guy makes in a week.
Looked at from one perspective what happens to a school bus is a prime example of the wastefulness of one culture (ours), but from the other (theirs) is a prime example of ingenuity, economy, and resourcefulness.
Want to go for a ride on a chicken bus in Guatemala? I selected this clip, because it accurately portrays the chicken bus experience. Are they safe? Not particularly (note guy riding on the side and bus passing on two lane road). Comfortable? No. Inexpensive. Yes!
Why am I posting on chicken buses? Because there is so much talk these days about electric vehicles and how they will be the solution to global warming. The general public has been hearing about EVs for last half dozen years or so, but having worked in the environmental field for last 40 years I’ve been following them since the late 1980s. I keep asking the same question “What are we going to do with the used batteries after the vehicles wear out?”
And I keep on getting the same non-answer. Everyone is focused on the front end, selling and making the cars. Investors are so enthusiastic that they’ve made Elon Musk, who is equal parts genius and jerk, the richest person in the world. The … richest … person … in … the … world. And yet, no one can give me a clear, simple answer to what we are going to do with the batteries.
Here’s a good article that provides what some people call factual information on the subject:
To my simple mind, we appear headed down the same road we followed with nuclear energy:
- Invent the technology
- Build the plants
- Slap our foreheads
- Say “Now, what the hell are we going to do …?”
- Shut down the plants
- Ask what’s new on the horizon?
History, I think, is repeating itself, and eventually we will ship our thousand pound, defunct, electric car batteries to what our one-time President called shithole countries to figure out what we are too lazy and greedy to figure out for ourselves. It’s just a matter of time until we have electric chicken buses.