Laura LeHew

In a Blizzard

between Basin and Butte
chrysanthemums litter the charred sky
pummel our little red Honda
cranking open the window
to ferret out the drowned road—

I could bring you so much pleasure
if you are ready for extinction

A Word Problem, 3

Karen, a serial monogamist, holds a doctoral degree in ministry. Every 30 days Karen purchases 3 pounds of Peets Gaia Organic Blend® coffee at $13.95/lb. for a cost of $41.85. Minus her Peetniks discount of $4.00. Plus $8.00 shipping which is calculated at time of shipment [Ground - Cont. U.S. (3-8 business days)]. There is no sales tax since Karen lives in Oregon. Weekly she purchases a 32 oz carton of RICE DREAM® Enriched Original Organic rice milk. The perfect non-dairy beverage, enriched with vitamins A, D & B12 with the same amount of calcium as milk. It is low fat and all natural and costs $3.70. She drives 2.55 miles to the grocery store.

The cost of gas is currently $3.23 a gallon. Karen’s 1999 periwinkle blue VW Passat with heated black leather seats gets 21 miles to the gallon in the city. It has 105,000 miles on the odometer. Recently Karen went to the car dealer to have the oil changed, mentioning to the service rep that some lights had just come on. 5 hours later the technician informed her that the ABS system had failed, her coolant bottle was cracked and leaking, the cam adjustor and valve cover gaskets were leaking oil on the exhaust manifold and engine block and the motor mounts were leaking hydraulic dampening fluid. The tech suggested replacement. The power steering fluid was dark and dirty; it needed flushing. Brake fluids were due to be changed, the fuel system needed to be flushed and a fuel filter replaced. AC was not working as the system was reaching “high suck” pressures due to the AC fan having failed. They suggested replacement. Estimated cost of repairs: $3,200. Blue book value of the car, if it were in moderate shape: $3,208. The car dealer proposed a trade-in. She declined. Karen did, however, authorize an oil change for $29.99 and paid $185.36 for the diagnosis including labor, parts and miscellaneous. It was the hottest day of the year, reaching 97 degrees. Driving the car home with the windows down Karen adjusted the mirrors. The knob broke off and flew out the window.

The Nissan Leaf a 100% electric car with zero emissions is expected to be priced under $35,000. (Less than the average driver spends on gas over 10 years). MSRP is $33,720 with federal tax savings from 0-$7,500. After tax savings, Karen’s net costs could be as low as $26,220, assuming $1,999 initial customer payment. The Leaf will be available in limited quantities in late 2010. Alternatively, Karen could purchase a 1999 black Mercedes at the cost of $13,999. It has been converted to use bio-diesel and is available today.

16 oz. rice milk lattes with sugar free vanilla cost $4.25 from Full City Roasters. Full City is 7 miles away from Karen’s home. Which variant gives Karen the smallest carbon footprint: buying her coffee out or brewing her own? Please show your work and don’t forget to add in the cost of tipping the barista.

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