329. THE SOLUTION: ELECTRIFICATION + CONSERVATION
It's becoming increasingly clear that electrification of transport (combined with conservation) is the near-term solution to peak oil. Yes, there are liquid alternatives (ethanol, biodiesel, CTL, GTL), and they will help take the edge off petroleum decline, and play a role in niche applications where liquid fuel is essential. But these liquids all have problems:
- Corn ethanol has adverse effects on food supply/prices, and requires subsidies. Cellulosic ethanol isn't real yet. Biodiesel is retreating due to costs and policy changes
- Nobody, anywhere is actually investing to expand CTL. Also, CTL is wasteful: It's twice as efficient to burn coal to drive EVs than to liquefy coal to drive ICEs.(Source and Source)
- GTL is small scale, and firms/governments are pulling out of projects due to costs, not starting new ones. Source
Simply put, the Hirsch Report solution:
isn't going to happen.
Therefore, there will be a shortage of liquid fuel, and we'll soon see the decline of the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). ICE vehicles will be replaced by EVs (Electrical Vehicles) running on power from the grid. Even Rick Wagoner, the Chairman and CEO of GM sees the writing on the wall:
"There is no doubt demand for oil is outpacing supply at a rapid pace, and has been for some time now," Mr Wagoner said. "As a business necessity and an obligation to society we need to develop alternative sources of propulsion."Mr. Wagoner is right, and the "something else" is going to be conservation. This gives what I call the E + C Solution (Electrification + Conservation).
He added: "So, are electrically driven vehicles the answer for the mid- and long-term? Yes, for sure. But … we need something else to significantly reduce our reliance on petroleum in the interim."Source
Electrification = Hybrids + PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrids) + NEVs (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles) + Small EVs + Full-size EV cars + Electric bikes/scooters + Segways + Electric motorcycles + Electric buses + Electric trucks + New electric trains + Electrification of existing diesel train lines
Conservation = Walking + Bicycles + Mopeds + Scooters + Motorcycles + Carpooling + Van pooling + Telecommuting + Riding the bus + Riding the tram/train/subway + Moving nearer to work + Sleeping at/near work + NGVs + Ultralight/Ultraefficient conventional vehicles + Buying a used compact car as a second vehicle + Buying a moped etc. as a second vehicle + Converting oil-fired generation to coal/nuclear + Jacking up CAFE standards + Increasing downtown parking rates + Lowering speed limits + Compressed work week + etc.
The E+C Solution will be the default solution when liquids finally peak because it is the most practical and efficient.
- EV fuel (electricity) is plentiful. All of the alternatives -- coal, gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar -- produce EV fuel, and have the potential to grow.
- There is no need for large scale investment in conversion plants (a la GTL or CTL) or distribution infrastructure (a la ethanol or hydrogen). A Nov. 2007 DOE study concluded that a massive shift to PHEVs could be handled by the existing grid:
For the United States as a whole, up to 84% of U.S. cars, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) could be supported by the existing [electric power generation] infrastructure, although the local percentages vary by region. Using the LDV fleet classification, which includes cars, pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans, the technical potential is 73%. This has an estimated gasoline displacement potential of 6.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, or approximately 52% of the nation’s oil imports.(Source(pdf))
- EVs come in a wide range of species. Electric bikes/scooters/buses for those who aren't rich, high-end electric cars for those who are. No one is locked out by price.
- Burning fossil fuels in generating plants rather than ICEs will greatly extend our fuel supply due to the greater well-to-wheels efficiency of the electric motor. (See Who Needs Gasoline? - The Incredible Potential of Plug-ins and EVs)