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Re: [carfree_cities] Hydrogen-fueled cars still far off into the future

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  • J.H. Crawford
    Mike Harrington said: I take issue with several of these points, which I regard as dangerous to our efforts. ... This is probably approximately correct.
    Message 1 of 8 , Feb 4, 2003
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      Mike Harrington said:

      I take issue with several of these points, which I regard as
      dangerous to our efforts.

      >In any case, fuel cells will be a joke after natural gas production peaks in North America, probably around 2020. Even now, North American drilling crews are having a harder time keeping up with demand, with increasingly smaller production on new wells.

      This is probably approximately correct. However, this does not
      mean that a high-capacity solar-based fuel industry will not
      be in place by the time declining gas and oil production really
      begins to bite. If it is, then it'll be "cars forever" unless
      we have really made our case that it's the social and aesthetic
      issues that are most important and that cannot be fixed by
      technology.

      >The time is running out on personal transportation, because methane production in North America will peak not long after global petroleum production's peak.

      Volkswagen has road-tested a vehicle that gets 100 km/liter (about 250 MPG).
      IF we move to highly fuel-efficient vehicles, conventional fuels might last
      quite a long time. (I'll grant that as long as Bush is in the White House,
      there's little risk of that happening!)

      >Rising energy prices will be the death warrant for the automobile industry as we now know it.

      I doubt that driving would diminish by even 50% if gasoline cost
      $10.00 a gallon. People would probably buy smaller cars, but they
      would tend to keep right on driving.

      >What makes me even more skeptical of fuel cells for automobiles is that it is doubtful that a fuel cell vehicle's cost will ever come close to the price of an internal combustion-powered car.

      Don't bet on this one, either. I'll grant that it's a long way from
      a certainty, but techonology often surprises us. Remember that the
      computer I'm typing on now would have been worth *trillions* in 1940.
      Now it's not even worth thousands. I'll grant that there are issues
      with precious-metal catalysts, but they may find a way around this
      (and I hope they do, as it would make the fuel-cell tram feasible).

      The hybrids are here today, and they work fine. I've driven one a
      fair bit, and it's basically indistinguishable from other cars as
      far as performance is concerned, but it gets 50 MPG. If we set
      hardware speed limits of, say 60 MPH on all new cars (i.e., mandated
      that no car could be *capable* of speeds in excess of 60 MPH), then
      the huge engines now installed could be replaced with hybrids running
      on maybe 20 horsepower. These cars could get probably 100 MPG and
      could be on the road in a couple of years. If oil gets tight, that's
      what's going to happen (remember 1980, when the econo-box cars were
      all the rage, and people were *burning* their Cadillacs).

      I do keep hoping that oil prices will spike (remember that the
      all-time high is about $140/barrel in today's money), but it's
      a weak foundation on which to build an entire movement. Let's
      concentrate on the issues that technology can never fix, while
      certainly keeping mind those that it might fix.

      Regards,




      -- ### --

      J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
      mailbox@... Carfree.com
    • Jym Dyer
      ... =v= Nuclear energy has never been affordable without massive government subsidy. =v= I don t remember whether I mentioned it to this list, but Former
      Message 2 of 8 , Feb 6, 2003
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        > Why is everyone in this discussion omitting the energy source
        > whose use clearly will increase if oil prices soon soar?
        > That is nuclear, of course. You may not like it. But it
        > will happen, if the future unfolds as Harrington predicts.

        =v= Nuclear energy has never been affordable without massive
        government subsidy.

        =v= I don't remember whether I mentioned it to this list, but
        Former Governor Bush's comments about hydrogen cars, and their
        prominent mention atop the energy department budget proposal,
        are just window dressing for a budget that emphasizes fossil
        fuels and nuclear energy. The high cost of decommissioning
        nuclear power plants has been snuck into the "renewable energy
        tax credit" part of the budget.
        <_Jym_>
      • turpin <turpin@yahoo.com>
        ... Of course. But if the current sources rise in price as much as Harrington projects, that picture will change.
        Message 3 of 8 , Feb 6, 2003
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          Jim Dyer wrote:
          > Nuclear energy has never
          > been affordable without
          > massive government subsidy.

          Of course. But if the current
          sources rise in price as much
          as Harrington projects, that
          picture will change.
        • tenpagyatso <tenpagyatso@yahoo.com>
          ... wrote: [...] ... While I might agreee with the ideology I don t think I want to live in the world that will be created when the oil economy we currently
          Message 4 of 8 , Feb 6, 2003
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            --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "J.H. Crawford" <mailbox@c...>
            wrote:

            [...]
            > I do keep hoping that oil prices will spike (remember that the
            > all-time high is about $140/barrel in today's money), but it's
            > a weak foundation on which to build an entire movement. Let's
            > concentrate on the issues that technology can never fix, while
            > certainly keeping mind those that it might fix.

            While I might agreee with the ideology I don't think I want to live in
            the world that will be created when the oil economy we currently live
            in comes crashing down on our heads. In theory I agree that
            automobiles, esepcially their use/production/socialization in the US,
            *must* be changed very soon I'm left wondering what this will do to
            the economy.

            In other words: what is the functional difference between the amount
            of wealth of the current US economy being tied up in gov't. support of
            the auto industry and what would we would see in this regard with the
            scenario being talked of in this thread? Any economoists in the house?

            Cheers,

            - Steven
          • dubluth <dubluth@yahoo.com>
            ... automobiles, esepcially their use/production/socialization in the US, *must* be changed very soon I m left wondering what this will do to the economy. ...
            Message 5 of 8 , Feb 6, 2003
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              > While I might agreee with the ideology I don't think I want to live in the world that will be created when the oil economy we currently live in comes crashing down on our heads. In theory I agree that
              automobiles, esepcially their use/production/socialization in the US,
              *must* be changed very soon I'm left wondering what this will do to
              the economy.

              > In other words: what is the functional difference between the amount of wealth of the current US economy being tied up in gov't. support of the auto industry and what would we would see in this regard with the scenario being talked of in this thread? Any economoists in the house?
              >
              > Cheers,
              >
              > - Steven

              It's a good question. Let's see if I understand what you are asking.

              A tremendous amount of capital is invested in the autmobile transportation system. Of course, the owners of that capital don't want its value to decrease - whether the capital is in the form of auto manufacturing plants, auto mechanic credentials, the established retail name and supplier connections of a car parts dealer, land which derives part of its value specifically from auto-traffic, etc. Other interests are those with rural land which stands to be developed because of sprawl.

              The value of a piece of captial is derived from the value of the goods and services it produces. Without viable alternatives - or, at least, while failing to recognize that there are alternatives - more of consumers' blood, sweat, and time is spent on the transportation system and less on other things that could bring more pleasure and/or sustainability (things of value). The transportation and land use options our governments have let flourish are partly determined by organized economic interests, like ones mentioned above.

              We don't need to worry that a decline in the value of automobile related capital would cause any harm to the US economy. The consumer who puts her money into something other than an automobile is still putting money into the economy. Enterprises that produce more value should be the ones that flourish. The huge amount of wealth in the automotive sector is a political matter. Its influence actually inhibits the growth of value in our economy.

              Economic changes influence people. The effect on employees and workers is a prominant subject of such changes. Probably the worst response to potential change is the government intervening to maintain firms' viabilities.

              +++

              Energy after the end of the oil age is a frequent topic in this group. Turpin suggests that nuclear energy will come to the fore. I remember from a decade or so ago a newspaper article in which someone stated we only had so many years left of nuclear fission fuel. It was just as likely as not an erroneous statement.

              Anyway I am persuaded that energy prices will continue to decline as Turpin suggests. I believe there is a lot of fossil fuel in the ground (coal) and probably the enginuity to extract it and make it readily usable. Price may continue to fall.

              However, price is different from costs. Prices influence how much is produced and consumed. Costs which are passed on to third parties aren't reflected in the price. Total costs of energy consumed in this country may soon be on the rise, if they aren't already. Reasons include congestion, global warming, and failures to control smog and the runoff of toxic automobile wear products into waterways. Our national accounting system doesn't factor those external costs into calculation of the GDP.

              Bill
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