New congressman defines ‘poser’ and ‘poseur’

By Kennedy Maize

Can you spell “poser?” Here’s my offering: “Eric Massa (D-N.Y.)”

Massa, newly elected Congressman from New York’s 29th district (that’s Corning, the glass folks), showed up in Washington earlier this week to be sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives in the 111th Congress, having arrived in the city driving a Chevy Equinox, an experimental fuel-cell vehicle fueled by hydrogen.

Nice. No emissions. Not exactly.

GM builds the fuel cell stacks in Massa’s district, and he was determined to show off the pride of his homeland at the Capitol. Photo op resulted: Massa and GM executive Monica Murphy refueling the car in D.C. Massa told the New York Times, “I have asked to drive this vehicle to Washington to demonstrate that this technology is real, it’s here and we are going to work to make sure it’s ready for the American people within a decade.”

But Massa didn’t drive the vehicle from Corning, N.Y., to the District of Columbia, a distance of about 280 miles. Rather, he drove two different vehicles on his magical hydrogen trip.

It seems that the Equinox can only get about 200 miles on a tank of H. And it also seems that there are no hydrogen refueling stations between Corning and D.C. A GM spokeswoman told the Times that the answer to how to get from Corning to Washington on hydrogen was two vehicles, with a second car waiting for the congressman-elect in Harrisburg, Pa., somewhat more than halfway.

GM’s Markey told the newspaper that GM used two Chevy Tahoe hybrid pickups as towing vehicles. One towed the first H-mobile from the New York plant in Honeoye Falls some 90 miles to the launch site in Corning. The other towed a second Equinox from D.C. to Harrisburg, another 120-some miles. So the pickup trucks put at least 210 miles on their odometers staging a 280-mile, two-vehicle gasoline-free hydrogen trip.

According to GM, the Tahoe hybrids get about 20 miles per gallon, and less when towing a load. That works out to at least 10.5 gallons of gasoline for the trucks (not counting any kind of return trip) or about $21 dollars (with gasoline at $2/gallon).

So Massa’s green hydrogen trip probably would have been greener had he simply driven a new Chevy Cobalt XFE from Corning to the Capitol. According to U.S. government calculations, that Cobalt gets about 36 mpg in highway driving, meaning Massa would have spent less than $16 dollars to fuel up for the trip, and wouldn’t have had to stop to refuel.

For those troubled about global warming, Massa’s political stunt produced more, not less, carbon emissions, because of the tow trucks. The headline on the NYT blog was on the money: “At Least He Didn’t Take a Private Jet.”

My ancient Webster’s dictionary defines “poser” as “one who poses.” Another identifier also applies to Massa: “poseur.” My dictionary says this is “an affected or insincere person.” If the shoes fit….