Saturday, August 24, 2013

Alex Epstein: Fossil Fuels Power Electric Cars

Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress has a great piece at titled With the Tesla Model S, Elon Musk Has Created a Great Fossil Fuel Car. Here is an excerpt:

"It is commonplace to contrast gas-powered cars with 'electric cars,” but the electricity in an 'electric car”'must come from somewhere–and that somewhere is usually fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas, which produce a combined 67% of electricity around the globe, because they are so cheap, plentiful, and reliable. And the role of fossil fuels is increasing, not decreasing; in the developing world, 80% of new power plants use low-cost coal. . . .

"If Teslas take over the world, they will do so as mostly coal cars–or natural gas cars. And not just because of the energy it takes to run them, but because of the massive amount of energy it takes to manufacture them. The Tesla’s state-of-the-art materials, particularly that $30,000 battery, take a massive amount of energy to build–and that energy comes from fossil fuels, particularly coal. In fact, some studies argue that the Tesla battery takes so much fossil fuel energy to make that the car over its lifetime emits more CO2 than a gasoline-powered car.
"Does that mean the Tesla is no good? Absolutely not. The fact that the Tesla uses a lot of fossil fuel electricity should not be used to damn the Tesla–it should be used to celebrate fossil fuel electricity."
Related Reading:

We Are Doomed Without, Not Because of, Fossil Fuel Use

The Tesla Debate @ the Center for Industrial Progress


Mike Kevitt said...

If electricity (any electricity) comes from somewhere other than fossil, nuclear, hydro-, or an 'atom' or two from wind or solar, I can think of only one other significant source: thunderstorms, which build up static, usually yielding current: lightening. Can lightening be harnessed? Would it be reliable enough?

The environment generally, including the atmosphere, might have static throughout, though sparse. But, static might still be concentrated in places, more accessible, perhaps reliable.

Might the environment be a natural storage battery which, if tapped, would promptly recharge itself?

Accessible, how? Is such a science fiction a total fantasy?

Galt's motor, in ATLAS SHRUGGED, absorbed static from the atmosphere. That means discharging static as current (like lightening, though harnessed), yielding power to run the motor. That's science fiction, to this day. But, in reality, could static, if it prevails everywhere, be harnessed and controlled, maybe not by a motor directly (but, why not?), but somehow, then fed, as a current, to a resistor? Shucks, I think so. Might be as good as, maybe better than, fusion.

Any scientists out there reading this guff? If so, am I outa my gourd? Whether I am or not, I'll blab with anybody about it who has his head screwed on straight.

Steve D said...

Well, I'm a biochemist, not a physicist but it is definitely possible to collect static electricity and use it to produce a current, so Galt’s motor could be constructed at least in theory. Serious scientists are already working on it but...unfortunately it will suffer from the same problem as wind and solar - a potentially huge source of energy which is not concentrated enough to make a significant contribution to our energy needs.
The answer as I will keep repeating and repeating until I’m blue in the face is nuclear fission. The amount of energy available in thorium and uranium deposits is vastly greater than all the fossil fuels combined. Nuclear is cheaper, safer and more efficient than fossil fuels. When the fossil fuels are used up (which they will eventually be) no other form of energy exists on Earth sufficient to run an industrial civilization. Fourth generation reactors, which produce no radioactive waste are under development.

Mike Kevitt said...

Thanks, Steve D. I buy what you say. I've been sold on fission since the '70's. If there's enough fuel for fission to last millions of years, like I've read, fusion can hardly be needed.

I see only one problem, hopefully temporary, hopefully disposed of in the next 20 years or so: getting the public wised up to the real nature of the 'environmentalists'.

Steve D said...

True Mike, but as we both know fission is only one of the targets of the 'environmentalists'. I heartily agree we have to knock them down. Otherwise, they'll happily go after any technology which works for the betterment of mankind (another obvious example is GMO’s).
I became cognizant of the real goal of the 'environmentalists’ during my teen years. In my youthful naivety, I heard all their diatribes against coal and oil and of their so-called love for the environment and based on these arguments, I assumed that (almost by definition) they HAD to be in favor of nuclear energy. Imagine my surprise when I found out they weren’t. It made me think hard, very hard, and after reading Ayn Rand, I finally understood why.
BTW: It may very well turn out that fusion power will never be particularly feasible. Getting more energy out of the reaction than we put in is only the first step. Then we have to make it pay for itself. By why worry? Fission power exists; enough for millions of years, I’m not sure, but thousands for sure and these resources exist elsewhere in the solar system as well and it will give us plenty of time to figure this all out.