Part of the discussion at the WSJ Eco:nomics conference:Interesting stuff.
Legislation is being introduced to ban the sale of the normal incandescent lightbulb from January, 2009 so as the normal lightbulb breaks, householders will have to replace them with the more environmentally friendly long-life bulb which uses far less energy.
In a 'Carbon Budget', Environment Minister John Gormley, announced the ban and said "By getting rid of these bulbs we will save 700,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year," he added. It has been estimated that consumers will save €185million in electricity costs every year as a result of the measure.
Even though I do not understand what this seeding the stratosphere with sulphates idea, somehow the basics do not make sense to me. Have we not messed with our plant enough to try to do engineer it further? Brad will probably disagree with me, but honestly, you will have to convince me that things are really desperate before I can support some of these geo-engineering ideas.
Tim Haab has a couple of posts about Peak Oil on Env-Econ blog. I learned about these via Econbrowser. With all due respect for Tim and John, I believe that one should not try to sound authoritative if one does not know enough about a topic.
First, given the time scales over which energy systems evolve and change, ten years is tomorrow and Thity years is day after tomorrow. I recommend reading the Hirsch report.
I will not get in to resources, and reserves, but one thing I must explain. Even CERA acknowledges that as times goes by definition of what we call oil is changing as non-conventional oil is being clubbed together with conventional oil.
We currently project worldwide liquids production capacity (not actual production) to grow from 88.7 mbd in 2006 to 105.3 mbd in 2015. This involves a growing role for non-traditional liquids—oil sands, gas-to-liquids, ultra deep water. This represents a widening of the definition of oil. Such a development and accords with the history of the industry, in which non-conventional technologies are introduced and, over time become conventional.
What Peak Oil community wants Tim and similar minded economists to understand is that the issues of transition are far more complex than economists will give them credit for. What exactly do we mean by alternative fuels for transportation? Unfortunately, we do not have a good substitute for oil.
I must recommend that Tim read Dave Cohen's post at the Oil Drum:The Tragic Consequences of the High Discounting of Oil Extraction I admit that Dave's analysis is not complete, but he makes very good points about backstop technologies and implied high discount rates of oil extraction.
If current prices are sending a good signal, why does IEA feel the need to shout every year that enough investment is not being made in energy sector?
On Stabilization Wedges: I suggest that Tim check out the science paper by Pacala and Socolow.
Tim is right when he says that prices will not peak at peak oil, but they will keep rising. This is precisely the issue that peak oil people want to highlight. John asks what should we do. There is no clear simple answer, specially when one considers that we can't think of Peak Oil as an isolated topic. What makes this whole debate complicated that in addition to providing a long term secure supply of liquid fuels, we are going to be very concerned about cliamate change. Several of the non-conventional sources of oil are two to six times as Carbon intensive. The issue is not simply of supply, but whether and how we choose to manage our demand as well.
I was very angry when I started sriting this post. In many ways, I have cooled down while putting the links together for this post, which I think is a good thing. I still think however that Tim and John need to think about this topic in a much more sophisticated manner before making cavalier comments. I recommend reading the Oil Drum and Econbrowser regularly as starters.
I remembered that it has been almost a year since we reported the climate change search statistics. After I discovered Google Trends, I thought that there was not much point in continuing with our overture search results. On the other hand, we have some data for about three years now, and there are at least a couple good results from our search trends, so I thought I should present them here.
As you can see in the chart above, we haven't see a big change in most of the terms we have been searching. There is minor variation from month to month, but there is very little if any trend that at least I can observe except for a dropoff in searches for "Fuel Cell" and a small increase in "Climate Change". In the past few months, I have added "ethanol" and "biodiesel" to our search terms, but for now we do not have a trend.
The second chart is a little bit more interesting as it includes a couple of heavy hitters that dwarf all the other search terms viz. "Global Warming" and "Hybrid Car".
From this chart it is pretty clear that there is considerably more interest in "Global Warming" now as compared to three years ago. The average searches per month have about doubled in this period. This is pretty consistent with the US Google Trends search for "global warming". The second thing to notice is the wide fluctuation in the search for "Hybrid Car". After a few spikes in the searches for "Hybrid Car", the interest seems to be cooling. Perhaps it is a sign that Hybrids are now well known, or perhaps it may just be indicating that gasolines prices are on a downward path in the last few months. Again google trend for "Hybrid Car" shows a similar, although not exactly similar pattern.
What do you make of these charts?
Inhofe insists that he feels even stronger about taking on what he sees as the current hysteria about global warming than he did several years ago when he first uttered that now-famous hoax statement. In an interview, he heaped criticism on what he saw as the strategy used by those on the other side of the debate and offered a historical comparison.
"It kind of reminds . . . I could use the Third Reich, the big lie," Inhofe said. "You say something over and over and over and over again, and people will believe it, and that's their strategy."
...While declining to watch either the Gore movie or the Brokaw documentary, the senator said he armed himself with the statements used in both.
"I know the text, and I know they are using old stuff that has been totally discredited," Inhofe said. "Everything on which they based their story, in terms of the facts, has been refuted scientifically."
... He dismisses even the suggestions that Americans could help by giving up big cars or using more energy-efficient light bulbs. "It is not going to make any difference," the senator said. "But if it makes them feel good, they can do it."
I am sorry for offending the people of Oklahoma. I do not disrepect them, but one has to ask: Why do you keep electing this man?
(Cross-posted on American Automobile Fuel Consumption Debate)
I promised to write something more than just a rant about who really killed the electric car. I had not read Mark Rechtin's review in Automotive News before I saw the movie (see readers responce here). I think that Rechtin makes a good point that instead of engaging in conspiracy theories, the filmmakers could have done a much better job of bringing out the complex technical, economic and social aspect of automobile purchase, and use. A similar, but slightly more angrier sounding take comes from MotorAlley.
I agree with Rechtin and Wasserman on many points. The acquittal of batteries in the movie is quite surprising. The batteries used in EV1 were not up for the job a regular that is expected of an internal combustion engine powered car. It is true that battery technology continues to improve, but even the current Ni-MH batteries would not lead to a satisfactory vehicle performance. Could the next generation of Li-Ion batteries do the job? Possible, but not yet certain since there are a number of cost and safety issues involved.
It is not unvcommon to find a small but highly motivated group of individuals who are supporting a cause such as the group portrayed in the movie. It should be noted, however, that a mere expression of interest by 4000 people in the state of California does not mean that there was a real market for EV1. Most Americans demand not only acceleration and fuel economy, but a number of other vehicle attributes such as interior and luggague space, safety, increasingly automatic and electronic features that consume more power, reliability, convenience and yes, least I should forget, low initial cost of purchase. Neither the EV1, nor other EVs in the movie fit that bill well.
The movie was quite critical of Alan Lloyd and California Air resources Board (CARB) in general. In the end, we should all remember that it was CARB which effectively mandated EVs with its Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) rule. As the movie notes, CARB got the idea after seeing a GM demonstration vehicle at an auto show. If CARB is to be blamed, then the blame should lie with the original ZEV ruling which was too optimistic in its estimate of development of electric vehicle technology. Even with the compromise with automakers, the ZEV rule has not been a complete failure. It can be very easily argued that the development of hybrid vehicles by Honda and Toyota would not have been as quick had the ZEV rule not been in place. In short, the CARB was at least partly successful in its technology forcing goal.
Of course, I have noted far too often that the hybrid vehicles, even after being on the market for several years, currently account for less than 1.5% of new vehicle sales. Even with the kind of buzz that hybrids have generated, there are several skeptics. Quite simply, they make a strong argument that even at 3 dollar a gallon of gasoline, the hydrid vehicles just barely make economic sense for a consumer with lower than average discount rate. The fact is that mainstream vehicle technology keeps getting better, and it is hard for newer technologies to break in to the market.
All this being said, my gripe with a movie like Who Killed the Electric Car? lies in the fact that they perpetrate the myth that somehow we are going to solve our energy, and specially oil, problems by means of technology alone. If we are to get serious about challenging the ever increasing petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, not only will we need better technology, but we will need a change in behavior and strong fiscal and regulatory policy measures that will induce the change. Too often our attention is foucsed on having our cake and eating it too. It is time to stop living in the wonderland.
In an interview given to the People Magazine, President Bush said the following:
Q: Do you think Gore is right on global warming?
A: I think we have a problem on global warming. I think there is a debate about whether it's caused by mankind or whether it's caused naturally, but it's a worthy debate. It's a debate, actually, that I'm in the process of solving by advancing new technologies, burning coal cleanly in electric plants, or promoting hydrogen-powered automobiles, or advancing ethanol as an alternative to gasoline.
So, Pres. Bush is in the process of solving the debate over global warming, and all you guys are worrying for no good reason. Sit back, relax and enjoy the show!