on 09.21.12 @ 05:13 PM
I’d like to head off any negative curmudgeon comments by noting that California’s grid has very little coal. It’s mostly natural gas and renewable energy.
Electric vehicles get 100 mpg equivalent, produce zero tailpipe emissions, and reduce carbon pollution by 75% on California’s green electric grid. They reduce our dependence on foreign oil and many EV owners have solar on their homes and thus are “Driving on Sunshine”. Instead of their fuel money going to foreign countries, it goes to local solar companies.
on 09.21.12 @ 06:35 PM
Whaaa, you big baby. Geeze-a-lou I was all set to compliment you on your passion while reminding you of its technological limitations. But Nooooooo, you have to go out of your way to ask for a black eye. So here goes.
Yes it’s true we don’t burn coal in coal poor California; however we import 20% of our electricity from coal burning plants in the southwest, oops.
As for electric vehicles, you conveniently leave out the amount of energy and materials required to MAKE one compared to an equivalent gas powered vehicle. Most of that energy is consumed making the batteries. If you make an actual comparison between two cars of equal energy consumption per mile driven the electric battery plug in car produces nearly twice as much CO2 as the internal combustion engine car during an average life of 100,000 miles driven. Oops again!
Then of course you conveniently leave out the infrastructure necessary to replace carbon fuel with charged batteries and viola you now have a system that will saddle us with three times the CO2 as our current installed carbon fuel distribution system.
Look I know you mean well Michael. I too love electric motors as a drive. Tesla really exemplifies why electric motors are superior, 100% torque at 0 RPM, holy smokes what fantastic acceleration! However, gasoline even used as inefficiently as it is in internal combustion engines (ICE) still packs 50 times the energy per mass as the very best battery (80 times, total energy). Fuel cells may be the next big breakthrough but they will still burn carbon fuel. There is a much better paradigm out there once you pull your head out of the kooky anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hysteria and realize our carbon use is part of the global carbon cycle.
on 09.21.12 @ 07:25 PM
AN50, glad you like Tesla, we agree on that!
Please provide citations, your “facts” don’t match up with my research, and I imagine I probably spend a bit more time thinking about these things than you do.
SCE’s 2010 power content label shows 7% coal http://asset.sce.com/Documents/About SCE/2010_SCE_PowerContentLabel.pdf In any case, extensive well to wheels analysis by the Air Resources Board shows that EVs reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 75% per mile, compared to an average gas car.
Dozens of lifecycle analysis of car manufacturing show that only 10-15% of energy is used in manufacturing/disposal, and 85-90% is in use phase. I concede that an EV uses more energy to make, but that this is paid back quickly during operation. You did state that “two cars of equal mpg, the electric will take more energy to make” - just show me a gasoline car that gets 100 mpg!
Your infrastructure assertion I don’t get, as by my last check there are electrical outlets everywhere. What study points to the carbon use you mention?
I agree with you that oil is an amazing, energy dense substance and that batteries will never be able to compare. Unfortunately, oil also causes air, water, noise pollution, wars, massive hemorrhaging of US money to countries that don’t like us, climate change (a problem my generation has to fix, not the older generations), and more. Honestly, don’t you think we reduce our dependence on oil? EV drivers are doing their part and I do get bummed when people try to spread misinformation. Then again, if you are a climate change denier I’m not going to argue with you anymore…. If 98% of climate scientists agree on something that’s about as overwhelming consensus as humans ever get.
on 09.21.12 @ 08:34 PM
Geeze-a-lou Michael, get off the anti oil machine and see the world as I do. Oil is nothing more sequestered carbon, carbon that used to be cycled through the biosphere. This lunatic fear of exploiting it is based on irrational fears about global warming which will happen whether we burn oil or not. Look at all life around you. All of it uses carbon based fuel because of that magnificent energy density. A bird can eat a few seeds and fly for miles on the energy liberated from those seed’s carbon based molecules. Really, you think human fears of natural climate cycles are going to drive our magnificently large egos to invent something better?
I don’t know what you spend your time doing, I spend mine doing the math. And this anti carbon nonsense doesn’t pencil out. Batteries or better capacitors will play a big role in energy scavenging, i.e. recovering energy from slowing down through regenerative braking, but that’s it and fuel cells may even trump that. But nothing is going to replace carbon based fuels for transportation for a very long time, unless you want to send modern civilization back 200 years where only the very wealthy could afford to travel.
Do the real engineering and discover what I have. Yes oil will run out and we better if we want the poorest among us to live better find a carbon substitute. My suggestion has been to use revenue generated from accelerated fossil fuel extraction to fund geothermal expansion, to the point of making power generation cheap enough to actually begin making carbon fuel for transportation. Our biggest source of carbon can come from atmospheric sequestration by massive membrane separation farms, again powered by cheap, massively available geothermal. This is the closest approximation to our already 4 billion year old tried and true carbon cycle. It’s just vastly accelerated and uses geo rather than solar energy as the main input.
When your main thrust is making energy cheap and abundant, thus available to all rather than the few, then a whole new energy paradigm opens up. One that exploits what nature has already figured out rather than having the intellectual narcissism to believe we are smarter than God.
on 09.22.12 @ 06:47 PM
AN50, I do appreciate that you have, very slowly, over time come around to accept the threat of peak oil, and to accept that renewables are becoming steadily cheaper. I also agree that geothermal is very promising, but as we’ve discussed many times in the past, geothermal is currently limited by technology to very few areas. The irony is that deepwater drilling for oil technology may be transferable to geothermal and make enhanced geothermal (which can be done pretty much anywhere if you can drill deep enough) cost-effective.
But there are a lot of “ifs” in this equation and right now we see that wind and solar, combined with price-induced conservation and increased energy efficiency, are the main games in town. Electric vehicles can take advantage of the amazing breakthroughs and costs in wind and solar, as well as other zero or low carbon sources of energy like geothermal, so they will in the coming decades become a significant part of the solution. And perhaps more importantly, EVs are inherently almost three times as efficient as internal combustion engines b/c they produce far less waste heat. As for battery storage density, this is not the issue you make it out to be. As Amory Lovins has argued for years, we have the technologies to make cars half as light and batteries half as expensive, which would if this occurs in a few years make EVs quite affordable for the masses. And when this happens the natural advantages of EVs are likely to quickly transform (in relative terms 2030 or later) our transportation fleet. There are many uncertainties here but the bottomline is that the limitations aren’t technical they’re cultural and political.
What I wish you would do is acknowledge when you get your facts wrong - and change your views accordingly. Michael rightly pointed out how your facts were way off in your previous post and you go on like nothing happened. He just undermined your arguments with citations to real information. Acknowledge and change. You’d be more convincing as a critic if you did that. I like critics - it makes our arguments and policies better. But if you want to play the role of effective critic you’ve got to change your style, and your views when the facts warrant such.
As for carbon-based fuels being used by animals and nature more generally, just drop this silly argument that you’ve made many times before. The living world uses carbohydrates as energy, not hydrocarbons. The changed word order and the changed molecular structure is rather important and you should know better.
on 09.23.12 @ 04:05 PM
Tam, nice article with the doc, a little pedestrian but considering the subject matter I think you did a great job, very interesting! I wished I could have asked a million more questions but Robert has better things to do. Anyway very interesting read, thanks for publishing that.
As for oil I have always acknowledged its finality, I don’t know where you get this idea that I have “come around”, you must be thinking of someone else.
Geothermal is our greatest hope for a cheap abundant energy supply that will outlast our sun. Yes getting it will be tricky which is why I continue to push fossil fuel extraction to bolster drilling technology. Geothermal does not have the cyclical or weather induced interruption solar or wind have which means they must have massive storage to even out supply. But because they are fairly low density they will always cost far more than more dense supplies. Do the math ( I know, that gets rather boring and pedantic, that’s the engineer).
As for EV’s I have already stated that electric motors are vastly superior to ICE’s in efficiency and desirability. It’s the energy storage to run them that is the problem and quite honestly I don’t know why you or your green weenie friends cannot do the math and see the problem. It’s an appalling lack of engineering due diligence, that is smoke screened over, so you can promote a carbon free energy system, which is absolutely stupid, all things considered. My proposal is to eek as much electrical energy out of a carbon fuel supply as possible while increasing efficiency over ICE. Using hybrid technology to collect waste energy in braking and make automotive transportation twice as efficient as the best today without sacrificing safety or affordability for the poor, which BTW, is not your goal.
As for facts, Michael needs to look at data from last year not the year before and look at data published by those who are not vested in “carbon free” paradigms. I won’t cite or do your research for you, its far too easy to find and anyone can do it. Don’t make parsed data a PR campaign, it’s the internet age.
As for carbon fuel buster nice spin. The uptake by plants of CO2 and water to make carbohydrates (sugars) still creates a carbon fuel that when metabolized produces CO2 and water vapor as byproducts. Hydrocarbons lack an oxygen atom in molecule, but when burned produce CO2 and water vapor (more ore less, depending on combustion efficiency). In the vast scheme of things burning hydrocarbons is putting CO2 back in the atmosphere where it originated. You AGW fanatics and religious adherents might not like the speed of the delivery but fact is whether we stop doing it or not the planet will continue to get warmer until the next cooling cycle and life likes a warmer planet.
We are not opposites Tam. We are just motivated by different things. I am motivated by the huge liberation of the poor cheap abundant energy represents. You are motivated by some misanthropic fear of human kind destroying the planet and therefore see massive energy use by humans as destructive. The math doesn’t bear that out, but it makes good politics.
(sorry Tam posted this on your other thread by mistake)
on 09.23.12 @ 05:44 PM
AN50, you often talk about “doing the math,” but I never see any math from you. The citations that I and Michael take the time to share with you do do the math, and my articles as you know are often pretty geeky and chockfull of numbers. You continue to miss the point on energy density. Energy density is just one factor of many in cost-effectiveness. Wind and solar are already cost-effective today in many situations, compared to natural gas or even coal in some cases (and quite a bit cheaper than nuclear, which is generally very expensive), even though they do require more space than natural gas or coal power plants. So the appropriate balancing in comparing variable renewables and fossil fuel power sources includes environmental and economic factors. This has been done in great detail in the state’s Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative reports (RETI) and levelized cost of central station generation reports:
Note that the latter report is way out of date with respect to solar b/c solar costs have dropped by more than half in the last couple of years and continue to fall dramatically.
Similarly with EVs and batteries: energy density is just one factor in comparing technologies. EVs are not that far from cost-effectiveness today when we consider the five or ten-year cost of car ownership, and are arguably cost-effective today due to the high cost of fuel. Do the numbers for yourself.
The larger point, however, which you still fail to acknowledge, is that if peak oil is real and here now or soon, fossil fuels will en masse become far more expensive because of the fungibility of fossil fuels. So where we are on the edge or the verge of cost-effectiveness for many alternatives to fossil fuels today we will tip very quickly and probably dramatically toward alternatives being far cheaper in the coming years. And this needs to be planned for as much as possible to help ease the pain of the transition.
This is why you’re also totally off base when you argue (hopefully sincerely) that your true concern is for affordability of energy for the poor and that I’m not. I’m about affordability and stewardship. If peak oil and climate change are real then we need to transition quickly and massively away from fossil fuels now.
As for carbohydrates and hydrocarbons you’re so wrong I’m astounded. You really think plants emit CO2 on a net basis? Plants absorb CO2 on a net basis, by a huge margin. Plants emit small amounts of CO2 at night, but this is negligible to the amount they absorb from the atmosphere. This is so basic. Drop this silly point.
on 09.24.12 @ 03:21 PM
That was a disappointing response Tam. Yes you have a point about the math, I don’t publish math I believe others should be doing and that does de-rate my credibility. However where you come up with this notion that energy density doesn’t matter is beyond me. It is crucial to lowering operating costs and raising efficiency. Even with out doing the math for you common sense should enlighten you to the higher cost and less efficiency of having to refuel more often for a given trip. This inefficiency is magnified by the lack of electric refueling and slow refueling times. Yes Tam technology will help, but there is already a better way and that is very high energy density fuels like those based on carbon, like all life on planet earth uses.
As for peak oil, there are many in the industry that will disagree with you. I agree its coming just not as fast as your wind mill investment would like.
As for carbon fuels I never said plants are CO2 emitters, where did you get that? All I said is they make carbon fuel in the form of sugars (carbohydrates) and that burning sugars or fats (carbohydrates or hydrocarbons) yields the same output, water vapor and CO2. Sheesh man, get over it will you? As a biology guy you should actually be all over this as the next paradigm. Mimic nature, make carbon fuel by sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere and then burn that fuel to return it, just like all life does, you know? In my scenario, I speed up the process by using a high density energy production scheme based on geothermal. This means the whole biofuel genre is geothermal based rather than solar based meaning we don’t compete with food for fuel and fuel is way cheaper meaning a better life for all.
Come on Tam, you and Michael should be all for this. It’s not only the greenest of all scenarios out there, but is the longest lasting, least expensive and most progressive. It just won’t eliminate carbon fuel and it still relies on the carbon cycle. Unless of course you have another motive?
on 09.24.12 @ 03:36 PM
AN50, you’ve pretty much lost all credibility at this point from my perspective. If you’re an engineer and a critic supply some numbers to support your critiques.
Similarly, for your geothermal advocacy, respond to my earlier points. I’m all for geothermal but I’ve argued many times now to you that geothermal is very limited as a supply source until we see some major technology improvements. Geothermal is an amazing sustainable baseload power source. But until it can be utilized in a widespread and affordable manner the only serious games in town in the renewable energy space are solar and wind, which are here today, at scale and affordable.