Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Modest Proposal

The basic layout for gas-to-electric
I recently looked at the Exxon-Mobil website to see what they had to say about the energy crisis that's on our doorstep and is, like the Dire Wolf, going to bust in and eat us. They dismissed any concerns about diminishing supply vs. increasing demand, of course. Don't look behind the curtain, Dorothy.
And yesterday, once again it was revealed that Saudi Arabia has published false estimates of their oil reserves. The stability of that regime and of energy industry stock prices depends on continuing the charade. Think Enron here: when it's over, it's over fast.
What to do? Some urbanites can make it without private transportation and avoid gasoline purchases; a very very few make their own biodiesel or ride electric scooters (or horses!), but with our suburban sprawl and 3,000 mile wide geography, the combination of much higher fuel and food prices will knock the less well-off 2/3 of the nation to the floor and they won't have any way to deal with it.
The challenge is urgent, but don't expect a brilliant energy policy from our corporate nation: while the Republicans are cutting millions from alternative programs this very day, China is investing U.S. $15 billion to initiate an electric car industry there. Girl, you got to do it for yourself.
Let's say you now have a good car, not too big, and are worried that if you wait to trade it in on an electric or nongasoline auto when the going gets really bad it will be worthless and the waiting list for that replacement will be long. Remember, though, that innovation comes up from the bottom and not down from the top: it's the eccentric in his garage who will be your hero, not GM or Uncle Sam. For years, hobbyists, hometown engineers and even racing enthusiasts have been developing the conversion of gasoline cars to electric, unheralded but ahead of the giant manufacturers. You won't see it on the evening (or, heaven help us, the cable) news, but a company called Electro Automotive USA sells a complete, universal conversion package for $6500. It might cost that again to hire someone to install it, but you'll have an almost new, really cheap-to-run car for less than half the cost of a new one. And the better-known companies have over a half-dozen production all-electric models ready to go; they're selling in California, Japan, Australia and Asia right now.
Despite the roadblocks being thrown down by the retrograde Tea/Republican't droolers, recharging station systems are going in all over the western and far northern U.S. We covered North America in gas stations in 1920; we can do the same today, scaling it from the local to the continental.
The tipping point will be when the current state of the art battery, the lithium-ion, is replaced by a cheaper, lighter, more effective one. Some only have a range of 30 - 70 miles, which justifiably induces instant "range anxiety," but the Tesla company (which makes the beautiful Roadster, if you have $100,000) is already using laptop battery cell technology with a 245-mile range. Think dial phones vs. the i-Phone -- we can do it. With their serious investment, the Chinese, however, will probably do it first.
But even with the current technology requiring replacing heavy batteries every 3 - 10 years, once you eliminate gas, liquids, filters, belts, hoses, cooling and exhaust repairs and tune-ups, the electric car is cheaper and easier right now.
Those buildings housing your hometown gas stations might be replaced by your neighbors' own new businesses, converting your current car to one that you could actually afford to drive. And not that most people care, but they'd be quiet and clean (if the electric generating plants, owned unfortunately by the very people who don't give a damn about you, the country or the world moved away from coal). And what if other local people installed a few American-made solar panels or a wind turbine on your home, and you generated your own electric fuel. The energy companies could change their business model from extraction to creation and lease these to you (remember, you just spent $12,000 on your conversion; you're a little tapped out) so they could continue to get into your pocket, in a mutually beneficial way.
Just sayin'.

1 comment:

  1. Oh there you go again. Trying to make the country a better place.
    First, let me say the diagram caught me off guard. You bad boy.
    The country has maybe reached it's limit in expansion so we don't have to buy the latest and greatest invention to travel hundreds of miles to be in the same place. Throw away that neighborhood agreement and plant a garden.