‘We Have to Quit Burning Oil’

Retired Virginia Tech physics professor Dave Roper is speaking at the Sustainable Living Forum Aug. 16-18 about electric vehicles, solar energy and community sustainability

SWEET SPRINGS, W.Va. — Solar Energy. Electric Vehicles (EV) and ways to explore ‘Entropy, Complexity Theory and Sustainable Development’ will be the topics explored by L. David (Dave) Roper, as he helps set the overall tone of the Sweet Springs Sustainable Living Forum, set for Aug. 16 – 18 at the Sweet Springs Resort Park here.

Roper has a doctorate in theoretical physics from MIT (‘63) and is a retired physics professor from Virginia Tech. He is an enthusiastic cheerleader of EVs, is passionate about utilizing the sun to its maximum potential so that we can end our dependence upon fossil fuels, and offers a precise and well-documented presentation on the topic, “Entropy, Complexity Theory and Sustainable Development.”

Dave Roper with his Tesla Model 3

Roper, who will drive his EV — a Tesla Model 3 — over the mountain for the weekend gathering, is a prime example of the Forum’s focus. Organizers and the many presenters are embracing the concept of The Sustainable Corridor Initiative, which organizers describe as “The two Virginias working together towards a new model for human organization … to promote community cohesion and resilience in a changing world.”

Ropers’ presentation on EVs will be during the Friday evening session simply titled, “Solar.” That session begins at 7:30 p.m. His presentation the next morning will be during the “Water-Food-Shelter Security” session. It begins at 10 a.m. He will participate in the Saturday afternoon Sustainable Corridor Initiative round table discussions and also threatened to offer test drives during his stay at the Resort.

Roper, who was born and raised in Oklahoma on a dairy and wheat farm, makes no bones about where he stands on EVs. In April, he published a paper, “Tesla Model 3 with Superchargers/Destination-Chargers is the Best Car Ever Made.” Also, in this paper, he offers insight akin to a consumer report for the Tesla Model 3. He also addresses, “When Will All Cars be Electric?”

He said there are several reasons for converting to EVs as quickly as possible.

He pointed to an article by the Union of Concerned Scientists that demonstrated the vast disparity in the amount of greenhouse emissions caused by EVs as compared to a gasoline car. According to the report, “New data from the US EPA on power plant greenhouse gas emissions are in, and electric vehicles (EV) in the US are even cleaner than they were before. The climate change emissions created by driving on electricity depend on where you live, but on average, an EV driving on electricity in the U.S. today is equivalent to a conventional gasoline car that gets 80 MPG, up from 73 MPG in our 2017 update.”

He argued, “We have to quit burning oil. That’s the big reason to drive electric cars,” which he explores in another essay,  “Electric Vehicles: Economic and Environmental Benefits (And Enjoyment!).” As the title reveals, he admitted that having fun while driving is a compelling reason that he drove his EV. Not the main reason, but a reason. He shared, “They’re damn fun. The are extremely fast. They have outstanding acceleration.”

Tesla Model 3.2

Fun aside, he added, “The EPA rating is 130 mpg essentially. They are extremely efficient. Part of the climate crisis solution is converting to electric cars as fast as possible. Legacy car companies are way behind Tesla. It’s the best car I have ever driven. It’s going to outlast me. They are reliable and maintenance free.” He said also that EVs must also include short-haul and long-haul trucks.

Roper also argued that EVs are not merely futuristic. Asked how people can be convinced to adopt them, he replied, “It’s happening already. People understand it’s necessary because of the climate crisis.”

He noted also that millenials and others behind the baby-boom generation are early adopters of EVs. He also pointed to the number of charging stations being built. The rapid growth of the stations are evident at several convenience store chains. For example, he noted Richmond has at least two locations with 20 stalls each.

And, the car tells him where and when he needs to stop to charge up.

He continued, “Things are really happening fast and people don’t realize this. There are plenty of places to charge your car. That’s what worries people about EVs. But they don’t need to worry about that. Plus, I do most of my charging at home.”

Roper said that Tesla is putting in charging stations all over the United States, at hotels and other locations. “It’s standard because they want to promote electric cars.” He enjoys the convenience such an arrangement offers. “By morning, it’s ready to go. It just works out so simple. You don’t have to go to a smelly gas station. When people realize how simple and easy it is, how less expensive it is in maintenance and how much they save over time, they’ll switch.”

Despite perceptions that EVs aren’t affordable for the average person, Roper countered there is only $2,000 difference between the cost of the smallest Tesla ($38,000) and the average new gasoline-powered car ($36,000). He added that a used Nissan Leaf can be had for about $8,000. Indeed, the lowest price Leaf is just under $30,000. “They have been out long enough that there are a lot of used ones on the market. You can buy a used electric car as cheap as you can buy a used gasoline car. Low income people can do this. Not as many yet, but as time goes on, more will be on the market.”

He said that his daughter was able to buy a used one for less than $10,000. In fact, he said there are three EVs in his family, with charging range from roughly 238 miles to 325 miles

Roper shared, “One of the things I’ll be talking about is renewable energy. The people that put solar panels on their house often end up buying an electric car and visa versa. So now I’m driving a car on solar energy. So when I drive it I’m putting no carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Of course, there are costs with making it and charging it, but at 15,000 miles that’s paid for.” He also noted how quickly the technology is improving the range of batteries. “The Tesla batteries are designed to last 200,000 to 300,000 miles. Next it will be one million miles.”

He’s equally enthusiastic about his presentation Saturday morning, “Entropy, Complexity Theory and Sustainable Development.” He said, “I am going to talk about entropy or disorder and how the universe and earth is going into greater disorder. If we don’t use the sun for energy, we are going to have more disorder. Carbon in the atmosphere causes pollution, contributing to the disorder. Of course you can use wood, because it’s created by the sun, but not faster than the sun grows them. But we have. We have deforested much of the planet.”

He continued, “For sustainable development what is needed is low entropy (disorder) and high complexity. When you put them together, you get something like the human body which is an amazing thing. It’s called emergence. At some point there is a sweet point for a self-healing system to balance order and complexity. When it become disordered, it falls apart.”

Roper spoke at last year’s Sustainable Living Forum and is an active member of Sustainable Blacksburg. According to its website, “Sustainable Blacksburg is a non-profit – 501(c)3 – community organization whose mission it is to facilitate environmental stewardship in the Blacksburg area and to enhance the region’s livability by reducing its impact on the local and global environment.  Our current goals are (1) to initiate and promote sustainable practices in the Blacksburg area, (2) to encourage other area organizations that promote sustainability, and (3) to disseminate information to area residents that will enhance our ability to live in balance with our environment.”

It sounds much like the vision of a Sustainable Corridor Initiative for the two Virginias.

Learn More

The Sustainable Living Forum is open to the public and free of charge. Primitive camping at the venue is free.  Food vendors will be providing breakfast, lunch and dinner options at reasonable prices. Additional attractions include craft vendors, historical stations and hands-on demonstrations.

For additional information about the Sustainable Living Forum program or about the Sweet Springs Resort Park Foundation, call 304-536-1207, check the Sweet Springs Resort Park Foundation Facebook page or the Events page of the Appalachian Chronicle. To get there by GPS: 19540 Sweet Springs Valley Road, Gap Mills, WV 24941.

Previous articles about the Sustainable Living Forum:

Sweet Springs Sustainable Living Forum & Craft Fair Set for Aug. 16-18

A ‘Lonesome Friend of Science’ Presses On

Mother Earth Needs Her Children

Jeeva Abbate to Participate in Sweet Springs Sustainable Living Forum

Appalachia ‘A Sacred Place Calling for a Spiritual Solution’ Says Forum Speaker

Here Comes the Sun

Arts and Crafts Vendor Spaces Available for Sustainable Living Forum

Monroe County, W.Va. Citizens Model Community Emergency Preparedness

© Michael M. Barrick, 2019


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