McCain Doesn’t Know Electric Cars or Economics

By Tim Lyman

John McCain, in a speech on Monday, demonstrated a lack of understanding not only of the barriers to consumers buying electric cars, but of basic economics. His campaign staff and advisors (at least the ones who reviewed the speech) demonstrated that they are incompetent.

One of the functions of campaign staff and advisors is to keep the candidate from saying anything stupid in a public forum. Staff and advisors can’t keep a candidate from making dumb off the cuff remarks; but they can see that the candidate doesn’t say something really dense in a scripted speech.

McCain proposed offering a $300 million dollar prize to the company that can produce an electric vehicle battery pack at thirty percent of the current cost.

Even public school students understand the principle of economies of scale. The first DVD players cost $1000, but as more were sold, the price quickly dropped. Now you can get a DVD player for $29. It’s going to be the same thing with electric car batteries. The market, not technology, will cause the price of battery packs to drop to a lot less than thirty percent o their current cost. Apparently this simple and time proven fact escapes the McCain campaign.

The factors limiting adoption of electric vehicles are well known, and battery cost is probably the least significant. The four limiting factors preventing the adoption of electric vehicles are:

1. Range
2. Recharge Time
3. Cost
4. Appearance


Until recently, the range (how far it can travel between chargings) of an electric vehicle was about 20 miles. Electric vehicles used the same lead-acid battery technology that’s been powering flashlights for 80 years. If you’ve ever used plain old batteries in your digital camera, you know how short their life is.

Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries (NiMH) batteries hit the market a few years ago and were capable of storing far more power than lead-acid batteries, but unless you wanted to trade your backseat for batteries, your range was still only about 50 miles.

The latest generation of Lithium Ion batteries pack way more juice into a smaller space than previous technologies, but range in a standard sized car (as opposed to a shoebox/coffin on wheels) is still limited to about 150 miles.

Americans take freedom of travel within the country’s borders for granted, but, at the time of the country’s founding, it was an innovation. Most Europeans required the equivalent of a passport and visa just to travel from one city to another. Americans value their freedoms, particularly the freedom of movement. Even though most of us drive less than 30 miles a day, we want to know that if we hopped in our car, it would take us as far as we want to go, and 150 miles just isn’t far enough.

Charge Time

While battery efficiency and storage capacity has greatly increased over the last decade, charge time is still the same as it was for the first electric car 100 years ago — six to eight hours. Americans used to refueling in five minutes will not tolerate six to eight hours of downtime. It is not a patience issue, it is a freedom issue — in an electric car, when your battery is dead, your freedom of movement ends.

Charging currently must be done on either a high amperage circuit (usually 30 amps, like the ones you plug an RV into) or with a special charger costing several thousand dollars. The advantage of the special chargers is that they can charge Lithium Ion batteries very quickly — some companies claim to be able to recharge an entire battery pack to 95% in ten minutes. The amount of power required to do this, however, is more than almost all households can deliver.

Most people would spend the $200 or so it would cost to add a 30 amp circuit to their house, but darn few are going to shell out $5000 – $8000 for a special charger. You want a fast charge when you’re travelling, not when you’re at home.


Until recently, electric vehicles used the same lead-acid battery technology that’s been powering flashlights for 80 years. These batteries had a useful life of about two years regardless of the number of chargings. That meant shelling out about $3000 every two years.

Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries have a much longer life than lead acid batteries, but are very finicky about how they are charged. They have what is referred to as “memory” and unless completely depleted before charging their storage capacity will quickly degrade. Remember that drill battery that died after six months because you put it in the charger after every use?

Lithium Ion batteries can be recharged as much as 25,000 times and have no memory, meaning that, barring accident, they should last longer than the car they power, but they are expensive — a Lithium Ion battery pack marketed as part of a Ford Ranger conversion kit will cost $12,000 for enough juice to go (optimistically) 200 miles between charges.

Today I can buy a two wheel drive Ford Ranger with a 2.3 litre gas engine for $18,000. The same vehicle, converted to electric power with a 200 mile range and capable of recharging in six to eight hours will cost $38,000. This is because gas Rangers are produced by the millions on an assembly line and the conversions are done one at a time.


People have definite ideas about how cars should look. Cars should look like cars, not like children’s toys. If you’ve seen one of the production electric cars you’ve probably had two thoughts: “How would I get the family into THAT?”, and “That person is so dead in any accident over five miles per hour”.


In order to gain mass acceptance, electric vehicles will have to go farther, charge faster and cost much less than they do now, and do it in familiar packages.


Range and charge time are inversely related. Motorists are willing to accept a long charge time, provided they get lots of range and are willing to accept more limited range if charge time is short. To make electric vehicles ubiquitous, we’re going to need both, and this means technological advances and infrastructure changes.

One of the solutions forwarded for the range issue is the establishment of battery swap stations, something along the lines of those propane tank exchanges at Wal Mart. This, however, is impractical as it would require easily removable, standardized battery packs and swap stations willing to carry an inventory of several million dollars worth of batteries.

The only real answer is to add fast chargers to existing gas stations. If ten minute recharging stations were as omnipresent as gas stations, we might be OK with a 150 mile range, but until they are, I think the psychological range barrier is closer to 500 miles.

People can’t buy the cars if they’re not there to buy. I’ll bet that if more fleet managers knew about the Rangers mentioned above they’d be buying them in droves. Even at $39,000 they pay for themselves in fuel savings in about 100,000 miles. Probably less — do you think gas is going to stop getting more expensive? If you throw in maintenance savings, it comes down to about 80,000 miles. With enough fleet orders, the price would fall precipitously. Produced in quantities exceeding ten thousand units per year, it should not cost much more than a standard Ranger, even if battery prices don’t fall.

The rub is that with the switch to an electric fleet, we’re going to need more electricity — and that ain’t coming from windmills and solar panels — but that’s another article.

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  • pk2

    The solutions, such as fast charge stations is interesting, but how do we get there realistically?

    • Tim Lyman


      Gas station owners are going to have to see a profit in installing fast charge stations. That profit won’t be there until there are a certain number of electric vehicles on the road. The good thing is that at $5000 to $8000 charge stations are (compared to other gas station equipment) really cheap.

  • Jerry

    I will tell you something else. No one I know in this country is going to stand around at a gas station, waiting in line, just to wait another 10 minutes (or more most likely) to recharge their car. It simply will not happen. Think about it. If you wait 10 minutes for a coffee or a burger, you leave. Most everyone does.

    This will not work in our society, period.

    The only solution is for the vehicle to get them where they are going and back home on a single charge. Trust me on this. Big oil won’t be going away anytime soon regardless of what any silly, ignorant politicians do. They are all inept and all clueless, just like John. There is not a one that truly understands much of anything, as evidenced by how they are daily ruining our country. We would be much better off if they did not exist.

    Otherwise, your comments are excellet and much appreciated.

    • Tim Lyman

      Hi Jerry –

      I disagree. I see people wait in gas lines for 15 minutes to save $.05 on a gallon of gas. Time your next fillup – from the moment the pump goes in the car to the moment it’s removed – probably about 5 minutes. An extra five minutes is not going to be the deal killer.

      • Jerry

        If each charge takes 10 minutes, then it will actually take longer because these things ALWAYS do. So, now all users are taking at least twice as long to get serviced, so everyone else waits twice as long to get service, which takes twice as long as they are used to.
        Trust me, this will not be accepted by most Americans. If it would, we would all still be happy with dial-up. You are really, really short-changing our need for speed if you discount what I have said.

  • Bob Clark

    This is a superb analysis. But I wouldn’t be too hard on McCain. Electric powered cars – electric bicycles – still look like the key to sharply reduced foreign oil dependence for the U.S. The energy efficiency of electric powered cars over gasoline powered cars is huge. I’ve read you can go 20 miles using as little as 0.8 Kwh in an electric car. For many gasoline powered cars that’s 1 gallon of gasoline, or 125,000 British Thermal Units (BTU). By comparison, a Kwh has 3,412 or so BTU. So, an essence, electric powered cars are 36 times more energy efficient (not considering generating source) than gasoline powered cars. A new Nuc plant might have a cost of 20 cents per Kwh at the gate, maybe 30 cent delivered. Not considering the home charging issues, this works out to about $4.80 per 20 mile trip.

    What’s even more beautiful about the possibilities is electric power cars would make wind and solar even more viable as generating resources. A big problem for wind is the variability of its generation and the inability to store its power, excepting for large hydroelectric dams like Grand Coulee. There’s only so much storing of wind power that can happen with the likes of Grand Coulee. But if car owners could get a signal when to charge because the wind is blowing but other electric demand low, I am sure I and most other green pod people would charge and drive another day. Another beautiful thing about the Pacific Northwest is the snow melt in the Spring. It is not unusual for the wholesale price of electricity to drop to less than 1 cent per Kwh during certain spring days when the rivers are flush with melting snow, and electricity demand low.

    Tim gives me a lot of good new information. I really think the Public Purpose tax/fee that is imposed on customers of PGE and Pacific Corp should be eliminated for folks that buy electric powered cars or highly fuel efficient vehicles. Big industry is allowed to reduce its tax/fee if it implements energy efficiency measures on its own. The same right should be provided households.

    • eagle eye

      Bob, do you really believe this? Let’s say your electric car goes 20 mi. in one hour. You say it can do this on 0.8 kilowatt hours. That’s eight 100 watt light bulbs. Do you really think you can make a car go on that amount of power? I believe you’re off by a factor of about 10. And as you say, that is not counting the energy loss in actually generating the electricity.

      Think too about the statement that electric cars are 36 times as efficient as gasoline cars. Do you believe that? Suppose electric power represents 100% thermodynamic efficiency (it doesn’t, of course, the efficiency is less). Do you really think that gasoline cars waste 35/36 of their energy?

      You mention the “beauty” of wind power. Do you really think the public is ready to accept zillions of giant windmills everywhere?

  • dean

    Tim…thanks for what seems like a very decent analysis. I only have a few quibbles:

    1) You ommited any discussion of plug-in hybrids. Assuming these are just around the corner (as GM keeps telling us) they solve the range problem completely. One can do one’s daily commute on battery power, and can still burn petrol for that occasional drive to Yellowstone or grandmas place in California.

    2) You avoid the elephant in the room, which is the ultimate availability of petrol. It will likely be available for many years, but at ever increasing cost. THus making electric increasingly attractive as time goes by.

    3) You say people do not want to drive small, funny looking cars. Maybe you don’t, but many people do. Tastes vary. And safety of large cars, particularly SUVs is way overated due to rollovers frombeing top heavy. But anyway, you point out that a Ford Ranger (I have one) can be an electric car, so that defeats your point. They can look and be sized conventionally.

    4) Most households have more than one vehicle. Thus it is an option for people to have one electric vehicle with fairly low range, and one petrol powered one for out of town trips. Or there is flex-car or renting as an option. I have found that for out of town trips, renting beats the heck out of putting mileage on my own vehicle,especially with very cheap weekend rates.

    I agree with Bob above. Let’s not be too hard on McCain (even though I am an Obama supporter). At least he is putting some progressive ideas on the table. Yes, the key is large scale manufacturing…which is why some (including me) are advocating a carbon tax or cap and trade. That is what will give new technologies like electric cars and the wind and solar the boost to get up to large scale manufacturing sooner rather than later.

    • eagle eye

      dean — you really want all those big windmills up and down the Oregon coast? How about the Pacific Crest Trail?

      • dean

        Eagle…no, I don’t want that, and in the interest of full disclosure (at the risk of unleashing the distortions that are sure to follow) I have made a very small part of my living this year as an expert witness against one wind energy proposal in the Gorge.

        I am not expert on much, but I am an expert in the field of landscape aesthetics. There is no question in my mind that modern wind energy turbines….which with blade lengths that push them 400′ in height (think U-Bank Tower,) can have significant negative impacts on land aesthetics. And these impacts are nearly impossible to mitigate because one cannot hide or disguise something that tall, nor can one simply paint it a dark color so that it blends in. As a consequence they do not not belong everywhere. I am quite concerned that our current push for wind energy in Oregon will result in projects gaining approval where they should not be approved.

        Okay…all that said….we need wind energy and we need it yesterday. Lots of it. And that means accepting lots and lots of turbines. Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of them nationally.

        Fortunately, we have a very big country with lots of wind, and many willing land owners and communities. The broadest concentration of wind resource is in the upper Great Plains, and in this case “Great” does not mean scenery. That land is not only huge, it has what we call in the trade “high absorptive capability, meaning you can stick lots of large scale facilities out there and they look okay because of the scale and form of the land itself. North Dakota alone reportedly has enough potential wind to power the entire United States. It also ranks 50th out of 50 states in tourism. (Apologies to any Dakotans in the audience).

        for a map of where the wind is and is not nationally.

        What is driving location decisions in places where we should be cautious, like the Columbia Gorge, is the close availability of the BPA grid combined with reliable wind in the 15 MPH average range. I have not studied this, but I imagine the coast, while it has very reliable wind in the 18MPH average range, has lousy grid access. This is also true for nearly all of the Pacific Crest by the way,except for those few places where the grid crosses it.

        Nevertheless sooner or later we are going to see more proposals on the coast, for local power if nothing else. What we need is a state wide scenic resource map that rates areas, much like the map we have on wind. We need to overlay these and point wind developers to the less scenic places first. We have over 400 miles of coastline, not all of it is highly scenic nor highly visible from public beaches, highways, and so forth. (We have clearcut tens of thousands of acres of coastal mountains by the way). Those are the places to go, and when we run out of those…we consider our options and the tradeoffs.

        So shorter answer is…no, I do not want all those big windmills up and down the coast or the PCT. I do think we can have some wind development on the coast, maybe a significan amount, that if well located will not spoil the view.

        • kansas guy

          dean — congrats on opposing wind turbines in your own back yard. I really mean that, I think they’re an abomination. But don’t think that gives anyone a license to trash other parts of the country with them. You may think the plains are worthless aesthetically. I happen to think they’re fantastically beautiful. So do a lot of other people.

          No, we don’t need hundreds of thousands of huge wind turbines in this country, not in the Columbia Gorge, not along the Pacific coastline, and not in the plains, either. It’s a completely unreliable energy source with myriad other problems. And it wouldn’t even exist without massive subsidies.

          There are other ways to meet our needs for electricity. One is coal. Another is nuclear power, which hopefully will make a big comeback soon.

          • dean

            Kansas guy…welcome to cyber Oregon! You force me to further clarify my already long winded post. I knew someone would, but expected it to be froma local source.

            I was hired by a conservation organization to provide expert opinion on a proposal for about 190 wind turbines bordering a national scenic area. I reviewed the project for its aesthetic impacts. Others reviewed it for bird and bat impacts. My opion was that there were avoidable impacts. There was some back and forth, and in the end the developer agreed to move a few turbines to less visible locations and to eliminate a handful of others. An agreement was reached, litigation avoided, and the project is moving forward.

            To me…this is how it is supposed to work. We will get new clean energy AND we minimized impacts not only to scenery, but to birds and terrestrial ecosystems.

            I meant no offense to your great region. I grew up on the mean streets of Chicago, went to college in Iowa, and have a fondness for the what-is-left-of-the-prairie states, Kansas included. Had a great bicycle tour through there a few years ago. Great cafe in Salinas by the way. And…we were practically blown off of a campsite in Goodland Kansas our last night there. Ironic eh?

            Wind turbines are not unrealiable. The wind is pretty predictable over the course of a year, just not on a day to day basis. The plains is going to get a lot of wind development. I’m sure there are places there where wind turbines should not be built, as there are here. Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, the Badlands, Teddy Roosevelt National Park, the missouri Breaks, Scotsbluff, and so forth. Very beautiful places that should be conserved. Lots of windy land in between those.

            As to subsidies. Consider that nuclear is probably the most subsidized energy source. That is, without federal insurance guarentees, there would be zero operating systems. While nuclear has a great safety track record, the unfortunate fact is it only will take one major blow out to make large terrain uninhabitable, as we saw in Chernobyl. This is why no insurance company can touch it. Maybe global warming will bring nukes back. But not without continued subsidies.

            Oil is subsidized. Coal is subsidized. Wind is subsidized. New coal plants are DOA unless and until carbon sequestration is technically and financially feasible, which I believe will be the case in a few decades. Power companies are holding back on coal because they know that paying for carbon is just around the corner. Oil is for cars, and the hole in the bucket apears to have grown larger than the nozzle that pours the stuff into the top.

            We have a new reality to deal with. Actually, we always had this reality (limited fossil fuels) but it was successfully put off. No longer. The tab has been delivered to the table. It was a great party though.

          • eagle eye

            I guess NIMBY is alive and well among liberals!

            Congratulations on “hiding” the eyesore in the Columbia Gorge.

            I guess this is kind of like the “see-through forest” the environmentalists used to talk about before they became obsessed with global warming?

          • dean

            Don’t get me started. I spent 11 years modifying Forest Service clearcutting to lessen the eyeball blows. Won some and lost some.

            The Gorge turbines are not going to be “hidden.” There are plenty of places you will be able to see them from. But they will be mostly out of sight or at a fair distance from the most important (by Gorge standards) viewpoints. It was a reasonable compromise made by reasonable people on all sides.

            We are not “obsessed” with global warming…at least I’m not. Its a problem to be worked. Being a big problem, it needs a lot of attention and work, particularly until we can get a major bit of legislation enacted and signed. Within 100 days of January 21 2009 I reckon.

            On NIMBY….the whole political spectrum plays that card, including my apolitical neighbors who rose up to stop a highway extension that would have neared them, then went back to sleep once the engineers ran for cover. It was Jeb Bush who convinced his brother to take the Florida part of the gulf (where the Chinese are NOT actually drilling) off the oil exploration list. One way to look at it is that if you do not look out for your own back yard, who will?

          • eagle eye

            Sounds worse than I thought. A “compromise” in which the Gorge is scenically degraded, all for a very marginal, unreliable energy source that wouldn’t have a prayer of being built if it weren’t being massively subsidized. Fine work!

    • Tim Lyman

      1. Plug in Hybrids are a transitionary technology – a bastardization of existing and future technology – they are not the end goal.

      2. If I need to go to the Dalles and back in a single day I’m going to have to do it on gas, regardless of cost, until electric vehicles make the tecnological advances I outlined.

      3. Look around you. Look at what people are driving now. Lots more SUV’s on the road than geo metros. If the vast majority of people wanted to drive small cars, they’d be doing it now. Defeats my point? Would that be my point that existing gas powered vehicles can be converted to electric power, but at a cost exceeding the vehicle’s original purchase price?

      4. If this (two cars, one electric w/ 20 mile range) were a viable solution people would already be doing it. Flex Cars are the biggest scam going. A private company rents cars at twice the price of Enterprise, Hertz, etc. I would love to know who in city government is getting the kickbacks there.

      I am interested in solutions work. Solutions that work are those that do not require massive social and behavioral changes. The leftist/planner notion that people can be forced into idiotic and inconvenient solutions (like cars with a 20 mile range) is foolish, it ignores fundamental human psychology.

      • dean

        Tim…I did not know there was an “end goal.” I assumed that all technology is temporary until the next better thing comes along. Hybrids for example, are much more fuel efficient than gas only. A plug-in hybrid will be yet more efficient….until something better comes along, like Dilithean Crystals (Star Ship Enterprise).

        How often do people need to go 180 miles round trip in a day? Most people…not very often. We should have technology that works for most people most of the time, not over design something we use daily for what we need only weekly or monthly. That sort of thinking is what has us driving Hummers to pick up the kid from soccer practice.

        Okay….lots more SUVs than Metro-sized vehicles in the US, but not in Europe. Exactly the opposite. Is it because Europeans are smaller than us? Well no..the Dutch are the biggest people in the world, and many Germans are XXL. Is it because they don’t shop or buy groceries? No…they love to shop in Paris, and Europeans love their baggettes. It is in response to price. Gas costs more there and people adjusted. Gas now costs more here, and we will adjust in similar ways.

        You said in your post that an all electric Ranger built on an assembly line would cost a lot less than a custom converted Ranger. Thus one could have a contemporary vehicle that is battery powered if it were mass produced. That defeats your point about people not wanting electric cars because they are by definition unconventional looking and too small…but never mind.

        If it were a viable solution people would already be doing it? No. Not at $2 or below gas prices. At $4-5 or more, if this is sustained for a few years and not a blip, then yes….people are going to make that and many other adjustments. People are not dumb and most are not rich.

        Comparing flex/zip car systems to conventional rentals is apples and oranges. Very different business structure, insurance structure, convenience, and so forth. Again…you seem to be assuming people that make choices different from you are stupid. They are not. I have several friends who live in Portland who ride bikes most of the time, use zip cars some of the time, and avoid the expense of car ownership altogether. Are they stupid? I don’t think so.

        “Massive social and behavioral changes.” How does driving oneself around in a modest sized plug-in hybrid versus driving oneself around in an SUV meet that definition Tom? Who do you think is trying to “force” you into something. Maybe help “nudge” you to a more environmentally responsible choice by charging a bit for your pollution…but “force”? Please….spare us.

  • Bob Clark

    I know you might laugh at the source, but Wikepedia cites car companies saying a range of .17 Kwh to .27 Kwh per mile. Now the thing is a car will travel faster than 1 mile per hour. Let’s say it can travel the 1 mile in 1 minute. At the .2 Kwh assumption, that is 60 times 200 (100 watt light bulbs). A Kwh is measured as it implies for 60 minutes but the car don’t need 60 minutes to get the 1 mile.

    I hear you about windmills and the ability to scale to the degree needed to support U.S car transportation needs. This is why I favor nuclear power as the base resource. It used to be you could actually do nuclear for close to 10 cents per Kwh but the cost of cement, steel, copper, etc has sharply increased this cost. I have heard the French generate 80 percent of their electricity with nuclear plants, recycling the fuel until the waste product comes in at the size of shot glass for the energy needs of one household for 20 years. I wouldn’t be too hard on wind either. Back in the Dakotas where few folks live and my grandpa farmed until recently, there are miles and miles of land with very few folk. Putting wind in there wouldn’t bother a soul. Wind can be gotten for 5 to 10 cent per Kwh, and maybe 15 to 20 cents delivered.

    • eagle eye

      OK, I see where you’re coming from.

      Here’s the problem. A kilowatt-hour is a unit of energy, not power. You use the same amount of energy whether you expend it in an hour or a second, it’s a kW-hr.

      The figure you guote is the energy for the car to go 1 mi. Now, if it goes 20 mi. it requires 20 times as much energy (approximately — you have to take into account that generally the faster you go past a certain point, the less efficient).

      So let’s keep it simple. It doesn’t matter whether you go the 20 mi. at 1 mph or 60 mph. You expend the same amount of energy. You don’t get a factor of 20 by going faster.

      If it was really possible to do 36 times better with electric vehicles, there would be a whole lot more of them in the world.

      On nuclear power I basically think you are right. It’s crazy that the U.S. halted its nuclear development 30 years ago. I hope we get back on track, pronto.

  • Bob Clark

    Oh, I forgot one thing about the state of art in nuc technology, which is the depleted uranium after repeated processing is said to have a half-life of only 25 years or so.

  • Bob Clark

    That should have been 60 times 20 (100 watt light bulbs), and not 60 times 200 (100 watt light bulbs). Gotta go!

  • Rupert in Springfield

    You know, the big problem with electric cars is that most people consider electricity a form of energy. It isn’t. Electricity is a means of energy transmission. The implication of this is people tend to think of electricity as a magical form of energy that produces no pollution and comes from magic. I’ve run a few numbers, which I know are really boring but to me point out a real big problem.

    15 years ago, the PC became widespread. Concern was such, about all these things running and stressing the power grid. Power efficiencies were urged and I think, but am not sure, mandated on things like monitors. Ok, that’s a TV, that’s way less a surge on the power grid than electric cars.

    With that in mind, let’s do the math.

    1 gallon of gas = 1.3 x 10**8 joules ( 10**8 means 10 to the eighth power, joules are a unit of energy content)

    1kwH = 3.6 x 10**6 joules

    Average gasoline consumption per capita USA = 464 gallons

    Average electricity consumption per capita USA = 12,343 kwH ( this figure is from 2004, before Al Gores Mansion improvements, so it is now probably significantly higher)

    OK – So that’s our starting point. With me so far? I know this is dull stuff, but perhaps put on a nice outfit to add zest and appeal to the event.

    464 gallons/person x 1.3**8 joules/gallon = 6.032×10**10 joules/person

    this represents the total energy content of the gasoline used by each person in a year in 2004 before Al Gores Mansion improvements

    So we now know the amount of energy represented by a years worth of gasoline for the average person.

    What does that equal in terms of electricity?

    (6.032 x 10**10 joules/person)/(3.61 x 10**6 joules/kwH) = 16,709.14 kwH/person

    Uh oh, this doesn’t look to good.

    To replace the energy content of the gasoline means we have just added 16,709 kwH per person to the 12,343kwH they are already using. That’s more than doubling or electricity consumption.

    Now I know some will say electric cars are more efficient and I am not taking that into account. That is true, a DC motor has a roughly level power band across its range of speed, as opposed to a gasoline engine which has a relatively narrow power band. However, lets also keep in mind that while the car itself might be more efficient, its battery will not be. Charging batteries, especially rapidly, results in a lot of heat. That and other aspects means there is never 100% energy transfer between what comes out of the wall and what the battery actually takes up as a charge.

    Electric cars might be a good thing, but I think we will need a few power plants and a whole lot of new wire.

    On the up side, one can prepare. If you strongly believe electric cars will be wide spread, I would suggest heavily investing in copper and uranium futures.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Sorry, I should have made clear, the kwH and gasoline per capita numbers are on an annual basis. Yes, the number struck me as low, because 464 gals/year equals 38.6 gallons/month which means your filling up every other week. That seems low to me but per capita does mean per person, not per automobile. Thus non drivers (children, bums and the deranged ) lower the number. This number was obtained through the California Energy Commission web site. The kwH per capita number was from the Nationmaster website. It should be pointed out that electricity consumption varies widely by state, thus the average number is not the greatest thing to use, but will have to suffice. Oddly, Iceland uses more than twice the kwh per capita when compared to the US. I guess they must really blast the Bjork tunes there or something.

    I also assumed everyone knew what a kwH from paying their electric bill every month. If you don’t, get a job.

  • Jerry

    This guy says he could go 20 miles for about $4.80. I do that now in my Yukon SLT six passenger massive SUV with huge V-8 engine. So electric cars are great somehow? What am I missing? Squeeze into some little box with no power, no room, and no range to save nothing? I don’t think so.

    And not one of you mentioned the MASSIVE bird kills associated with windmills. Who cares how they look? Do you want to kill hundreds and hundreds of birds EACH and EVERY day to get your costly wind power?? Trust me on this, bird kills are very under-reported from wind power sources and they truly are MASSIVE. This is fact. And NOTHING that has been tried has stopped the MASSIVE bird kills from the windmills. NOTHING.

    ANWAR and the continental shelf are looking better and better each day folks.

    • dean

      Jerry…as usual you have your facts completely wrong. “Massive bird kills” associated with wind turbines are an urban myth. The early wind turbines,particularly in California, were built on trellis style towers that provided easy perching places for raptors. They then often few straight into the fastspinning blades and got minced. The modern single pole towers and other features have essentially solved this problem. There are still birds being killed, no question, but by avoiding key local and regional fly corridors this is a much reduced problem.

      Statistically, many more birds are killed by domestic cats, cars, patio doors, and the transmission lines themselves than by wind turbines.

      You say “nothing that has been tried as stopped massive bird kills from turbines.” Wrong again. First, a lot of pre-siting field study is now done (required by GOVERNMENT regulations and inspected by GOVERNMENT biologists by the way) before locations are chosen and approved (BY GOVERNMENT), thus fly corridors are avoided. Second, The longer modern blades turn more slowly and birds can and do avoid them, just like they usually, but not always avoid your windshield on I-5. 20 years ago the blades were shorter and denser and turned much more quickly. Third is the tower and nacille designs that make perching difficult. All of the big problems are from pre 2000 technology.

      But the larger question is which poison do we choose? Every technology has environmental costs, either in manufacturing or in deployment. Dams kill fish. Coal kills people. Natural gas occasionally explodes. No free lunch is available.

      ANWR and the continental shelf have NOTHING to do with electricity generation. If we suck up the last precious pools to generate electricity we are as dumb as a bag of hammers. If we suck it up so we can continue to drive inefficient, over-sized personal vehicles for a few more years we are dumber than that bag.

      Don’t be a luddite Jerry. Modern wind energy is a mostly good thing and an improvement. 19th century internal combustion engines and filthy coal are about to fade into history.

  • Jerry

    I give you this from the Heartland Institute:

    Giant wind turbines at Altamont Pass, California, are illegally killing more than 1,000 birds of prey each year

    A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that Altamont Pass bird deaths are more prevalent than previously thought. According to the January 30 Oakland Tribune, previous studies conducted by wind farm operators had underestimated Altamont Pass bird kills by 25 to 300 percent. Moreover, new technologies designed to reduce the number of bird deaths will actually have the effect of increasing turbine bird kills.

    The Renewable Energy Laboratory determined that new technology that would reduce the number of turbines by increasing the size of each tower’s blades would kill more birds than the preexisting turbines. The larger turbines would increase the area of “swept” air and would have more lethal blades and components than their smaller cousins.

    Similarly, the Laboratory found that replacing latticed towers with tubular ones–designed to keep birds away from turbine blades by discouraging the use of lattices for nesting and predation–would also result in a net increase in bird deaths.

    The new study, summarized the Tribune, “suggests the [bird death] problem is more serious than previously thought.”

    • dean

      Jerry…Altamont pass wind towers were built in the 1980s. They have become the unfortunate poster child for bird kills. Try to find a more contemporary comparison, and I will bet you come up empty handed.

      I just went to the Department of Energy Renewable Energy site. There are 258 research papers on bird mortality.

      I don’t know about the Oakland Trib or what study they are referencing. It sounds like their findings were specific to Altamont Pass.

      The “Heartland Institute,” as you know, is a right wing so called think tank. Only they don’t really think. They propagandize. Check your sources Jerry. They hate wind power because it is linked to efforts to reduce carbon, so they cherry pick some data and try to make a mountain out of a molehill. No enlightenment in that direction.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Like it or not, truth or real, Wind Farms are known as Bird Blenders in the bird loving segment of the environmentalist world. Its a case of perception being reality. I’m not saying it’s justified, it’s isnt.

    The interesting thing about this event is it poises bird envioros against so called green energy enviros. In that respect it represents the closest thing to perpetual motion human beings are likely to witness.

    As an aside, if any of you knew how much those turbine blades cost, the actual physical scale of them, or their fragility, you might rethink windmills as being much of a solution at the current state of the technology. I have no direct connection to the industry, I just happen to know the cost and precision of manufacture in them. Its astonishing.

  • Jerry

    The blades are quite large and many are made in Arkansas. They do kill birds, regardless of what the green weenies say.

    • dean

      Yes Jerry…wind turbines “kill birds.” House cats and patio doors kill a whole lot more. Have you belled your cat?

  • eagle eye

    For once, I find myself more in agreement with Jerry than with dean. Gasp!

    But whether the bird problems with wind turbines have been solved or not has very little influence on me. The most obvious impact is that they are a permanent, massive intrusion on the visual (and sonic) environment. To me (and many people) they ruin the landscape. To have any chance to significnatly affect our energy supply, they would have to be everywhere — you would never be able to get away from seeing them. That is more than enough for me.

    It amazes me that some people, including people who call themselves environmentalists and even tree huggers, apparently don’t recognize this. Or if they do, they have to fall back on material criteria such as dead bird counts. They can’t just rely on their common sense, natural reaction.

    • dean

      Eagle…its okay…you have agreed more with Jerry than me on global warming as well. And therein lies the crux. If the IPCC et al (or Al if you will) are wrong on warming related to carbon, then we can freely build coal power plants for many decades, since coal is still in abundant (but not infinite) supply. If they are right, or if enough political leadership believes they are right (increasingly the case) then we can’t increase, and must decrease coal use unless and until sequestration is doable technically and economically.

      Our currently available choices are limited. Wind is proven, relatively affordable, and avilable. Once capitalized, the electricity is essentially free and non polluting.

      I agree with you that the most problematic impacts of wind energy are aesthetic, not bird kills nor anything else except minor amounts of ground habitat loss (basically the pad area). Another set of impacts will be associated with increased line corridors needed to carry all the extra power and improve inter ties. That will be stage 2 of wind energy, once they use up sites near existing lines.

      I am an expert on aesthetic impacts to landscapes. I believe they can be held to a range most people will find more than acceptable. Location location location. We have a huge country and lots of wind. Much of our wind resource is in pretty remote, not particularly scenic places, including large areas already impacted by strip mining, agri-business, forest clearcutting, and other activities. Many people who live in these remote, rural areas, particularly the Great Plains, live in economically stressed circumstances and welcome wind energy with open arms. hey use a new term: “farming the wind.”

      The National Renewable Energy Lab says new wind turbines can produce 20% of our total electrical needs in the US by the year 2030 (this accounts for their part time operation). I did a back of the envelope calculation and came up with 300,000 new 1 MW turbines. Each 1MW turbine needs an average of 50 acres of space. I get 15 million acres, or 23,000 square miles. North Dakota alone is over 70,000 square miles, so about 1/3 of it would suffice.

      Of course…we are not going to dedicate 1/3 of any one state to wind turbines (though one nice thing is the land below can still be farmed or grazed.) The top 5 states in wind energy potential are:
      1) North Dakota
      2) Texas
      3) Kansas
      4) South Dakota
      5) Montana

      Oregon is not in the top 20, but we probably have enough wind and reasonable sites to get to 20% of our own needs if we want to go there.

      As for “environmentalists,” throughout my career I have been frustrated by the reluctance of them to be willing to take on various development projects head on based on aesthetic impacts. They rarely do so, having bought into the myth that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I say myth because landscape aesthetics preferences are proven human cultural norms. Even most loggers do not like the looks of square clearcuts draped across steep hillsides. Environmentalists also want to be taken seriously, so they prefer to rely on hard(er) science (ecology) rather than on social science to make their cases. Its too bad, because ther is a lot of evidence that aesthetic landscapes are vital to human health, they are not just nice to look at.

      Anyway….it is going to get very interesting over the next few years.

      Back to the original topic, a fascinating report on GM’s effort to develop the Chevy Volt (a new type of plug in hybrid electric car) is profiled in Atlantic Magazine.

      • eagle eye

        “Wind is proven, relatively affordable, and avilable.”

        Wrong on all counts.

        And you may consider yourself an “expert on landscape aesthetics”, but if filling the country with wind turbines is your idea of aesthetics, I hope you will be out of business soon. Or any large portion of the country — don’t think Oregon can used your NIMBY attitude to save itself, look at what is happening off the Massachusetts coast, where Ted Kennedy tried unsucessfully so far to stop the wind lunacy. If it’s good enough for the Bostonians, it will be good enough for the Oregon coast.

        And I know you are involved in the higher education system. I’m well aware of how the global warming hysteria has taken over in the universities — especially among the non-science types like yourself.

        If this is what has become of higher education driven environmentalism, heaven help the environmental movement.

      • eagle eye

        by the way, you said

        “Much of our wind resource is in pretty remote, not particularly scenic places, including large areas already impacted by strip mining, agri-business, forest clearcutting, and other activities.”

        impacted by clear cutting, eh? Sounds like most of Oregon west of the Cascades will be eligible. Or are you counting on the spotted owl for the NIMBY excuse?

  • John in Oregon

    Excellent job Tim. You have focused the discussion on the important issues that count for electric transport. As usual the politicians are no where near the mark. Looking at the problem from an engineering point of view.

    1. Range 250 Miles, we should expect at least as good as a Geo Metro — 250 Miles on 9 gallons of gas at 28 MPG.

    2. Recharge Time 10 Minutes

    3. Cost. This is the one that becomes complex and difficult. The primary cost is going to be the battery so lets look at that more closely.

    — Size and Weight. For a small vehicle like a Metro something around the present gas tank volume is a good target. An 18 gallon tank is 2.5 CuFt which will be our target. 18 gallons of gas weighs 125 pounds so lets use a 250 pound target for the battery.

    — Storage Capacity. One would hope the electric car would be at least as efficient as present gasoline vehicles. Nine gallons of gas yields 20,250,000 BTU or energy or 5,935 KiloWattHhours (KWH) of electricity. Lets wave a magic wand and make the electric car twice as efficient or 3,000 KWH that we need to store.

    — Battery service life. The service life of batteries is a major factor of battery cost. Current Lead Acid battery life is typically 4 to 5 years, Nickel Metal Hydride 3 to 4 years and Lithium Ion 2 to 3 years. For Lithium Ion that’s 2 to 3 years from date of manufacture. Even with sophisticated computer control of the charge discharge cycle I would be surprised if the Nickel Metal Hydride battery life cycle is much better than 5 years.

    How does present battery technology stack up? Three of the present hybrid battery packs will fit in 2.5 CuFt space. The weight of 3 packs is 350 LBS which is a bit over weight. The cost, $9,000 for three packs. For a 20 year vehicle service life, $36,000 if the packs last 5 years.

    But here is the key issue for practical electric cars, Battery Capacity. Three hybrid packs only store 5.4 KWH or 500 times less than we would like.

    That’s all related to battery energy density and those kinds of energy densities are only at the dream stage at best.

    What does it take to charge that 3,000 KWH battery in 10 minutes? The one that doesn’t exist yet. An electric stove consumes around 8 KW. So charging a 3,000 KWH battery will take 3,000 / 8 or 375 stoves worth of power for an hour. For 10 minutes that works out to 2,250 stoves cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 10 minutes.

    And that is the battery problem that needs to be addressed for full electric vehicles.

    • Tim Lyman

      Hi John –

      Manufacturers of the latest generation of Lithium batteries claim a life of “at least 14 years.” I haven’t seen any disagreement with this figure in any of the literature I’ve read, but I also haven’t seen anything I’d call a scientific study to back this up.

      The ten minute recharge was accomplished using a 250kw charger. If my high school electronics holds out, that’s 1041 amps at 240 volts. Most households have no more than a 200 amp service. It would require substantial and very expensive ($20,000 +) changes not to the household service, and perhaps even the local substation service, to get this much juice at your house. I don’t know what kind of service the average service station has, but would guess it’s not capable of handling 1041 amps.

  • John in Oregon

    To complicate the electric car problem lets look at the need to find replacement power for normal electric power needs. lets take a shot at replacing 20% of Oregon’s energy needs with solar.

    Presently solar panel cost is around $9 to $10 per watt. That works out to something like 30 cents per KiloWatt if we assume a service life of at least 30 years in properly located dessert solar farms, more like 40 years would be needed to break even on a house or building.

    Dean, the exciting development that you didn’t look up is an announcement by Nanosolar Technology. The announcement of the worlds _first and only_ 1,000 MegaWatt solar manufacturing facility. It will be capable of producing 1,000 MW of solar panels each year. Existing plants are 10 to 30 Megawatt at best.

    Although the panels are a fairly poor 14% efficiency, the mass production technology will drive the cost per watt down to $5 and the company hopes to reach the $ 1 to $2 per watt range ultimately.

    This is a huge breakthrough.

    The twenty five percent electric power required in 2025 for _Oregon only_ is equal to 19,375,000 Megawatt hours per year. Solar generates power for an average of 8 hours per day or 33% of the time. And for properly located desert soar farms 300 days of sun is a reasonable assumption.

    So we need 8,073 Megawatts worth of panels to generate that 25%. If we get _all_ of Nanosolar Technology’s production it will only take 8,073 / 1,000 or 8 years to get that capacity manufactured for _Oregon_ only.

    Anyone who says wind and solar are the solutions coming on line in the next 10 years is dreaming. And that *totally ignores the problem of storing huge amounts of power for use at night. That technology doesn’t exist.*

    But that isnt the worst problem. Wind projects are being roadblocked across the country. And now solar is stalled as well.

    *Citing Need for Assessments, U.S. Freezes Solar Energy Projects*
    New York Times 6/27/08

    “Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.”

    So there you have it folks. The dams must be ripped out, coal is not allowed, hell no to nuclear, and we have no practical way to store power if we could get solar on line. The lawsuits haven’t even started yet and the government answer is *NO solar* for at least two years. Once the lawsuits start then its what, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, Never?

    • dean

      John…soooo pessimistic. So luddite. I’m surprised at you.

      Its all about ramping up, gradually, bringing costs down as economies of scale are achieved. This is true for both solar and wind. Other technologies, particularly tidal and wave and geothermal are also just around the deployment corner.

      It would take at least 10 years to get a new nuke plant in operation. It will take at least 10 years to get offshore or ANWR oil flowing. In that same 10 years we could be up to 10% renewable on electricity and could convert our personal vehicle fleet to much higher efficiency, if not substantially hybrid electric (see Volt story in Atlantic Magazine). We could be up to 10% on bicycle commuting for that matter (uh oh…shouldn’t have said that here).

      Google and others are investing hundreds of millions in solar thermal, which uses the sun’s energy to make steam to turn conventional turbines, as opposed to photo-voltaic. The big advantage of solar thermal is it allows for heat storage for nightime and cloudy days. Existing technology that is rapidly improving.

      The fine print on your Fed moratorium is that it appears to apply to PUBLIC LANDS. Public land projects of any scale require lengthy, extensive environmental impact statements. Not true for most private land projects, and last I looked most solar installations are on private lands, or on rooftops, like those about to go onto Multnomah County government buildings.

      Most dams are not going to be ripped out, though a few low performers in bad locations will be. More nukes are possible, but not likely in the short run. New coal plants are still “allowed,” but under a cap and trade system would be counter-productive to build without CO2 sequestration. We can “store” solar power for short periods using existing thermal technology. The government did not say “no solar.” You simply are misinterpreting the extent of the moratorium. Relax… off. Its hot today. Find some shade my friend. Sip ice cold organic lemonade. Life is good.

      Wind and solar ARE coming on line John….not by flipping a switch in 10 years but by depolying existing technology today and tomorrow. This is going to cost a bit more at first and be less efficient than is optimal, but over time alternatives are going to get better and cheaper and before you know it they won’t be “alternatives” any longer. They will be the norm. All that is required is steadily increasing investment, unleashing the R&D genus that is American science and engineering. This will happen if we make carbon-based fuels cost a bit more in the short run. Its no big deal. We can and will do it. You’ll see.

    • Tim Lyman

      Hi John –

      You and a previous poster have both hit on the fact that the switch to electric cars will require greatly increasing our electricity generating capacity and, like I said, it ain’t coming from windmills or solar panels.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    The big problem with all the windmill, solar panel tidal stuff is it is unproven technology.

    I mean think about it, why is it considered a reasonable proposition that unproven technology will be online in ten years, but drilling for oil or building nukes taking ten years is considered too long a wait?

    And what does finding a new method for generating electricity accomplish anyway? We have an oil problem, not an electricity one. Coal isn’t running out any time soon.

    Oh…well.. but… there is the electric car….generate electricity…run the car…. less oil used…problem solved.

    Are you kidding me?

    Look, solar, wind et al are still trying to get to the point of large scale economic viability. That means real viability, not the subsidized ethanol rat hole we have been led down already.

    I’ve already figured out the rough additional electricity demand if we go with electric cars. Is anyone seriously telling me that in ten years time solar, wind, etc. will be not only in large scale use, but will be so wide spread they will have more than doubled our electrical generating capacity, which is what you would need for electric cars? Oh and lets also not forget that the electric car also has to be developed in this time.

    I mean is anyone really claiming that as a valid plan?

    If so, are they also claiming ten years to wait for oil drilling or nuke building is too long?

    Does that make sense to anyone? Are we ready to start considering recinding medical marijuana cards yet?

    Look – Here’s my plan – do nothing.

    That’s right, nothing. For ten years do absolutely nothing.

    What will happen in that time? One of two things:

    A) – The farce of AGW will have been realized by people, in which case we move on and start doing something sensible like building modern coal plants or nukes posthaste. By then people will be so fed up we can kick the Chinese out of the Gulf and start drilling away.


    B) – People will not realize the farce of AGW and we will have succumbed to this nitwit cap and trade system and carbon offsets. Some people, the elites, Al Gore, will be billionaires from this scam. The rest of us will be impoverished to an extent that we really couldn’t afford much electricity no matter what the source. We will all be too busy trying to pay for a $10 tomato which now costs so much because the trucks will be paying $10 a mile in carbon offsets so Al Gore can make his money. Electric cars? Why bother. You think you are going to be able to afford a new car?

    • dean

      Rupert…They are not “windmills.” They are “wind turbines.” Don Quixote tilted his lance at windmills that pumped shallow groundwater which he or his trusty steed probably drank. You are tilting your keyboard at wind turbines that generate electricity that allows your computer to operate, and will someday charge up your trusty plug-in hybrid car.

      “New form of electricity?” Not “proven technology?” Wind is generating 1% of the total US electrical demand today, 10 times its level of 10 years ago. We are adding capacity at 20% a year, more than from any other source, especially nuclear, which is zero new capacity in over 20 years. A big radioactive goose egg. Too expensive even with significant subsidies.

      Current cost of wind energy generation is less than 5 cents per KW hour, which is basically the capitalization expense since operation costs are only 1 cent per KWH. The federal tax credit, not a direct subsidy, is only 1.9 cents per KWH produced. The cost of wind energy is down from 30 cents per KW in the 80s. (The average electrical rate in the US appears to be around 7-8 cents per KW hour).

      Solar is also proven, but much more expensive at around 30 cents a KW hour (where wind was in the 80s) depending on location and other factors. Costs of solar electricity are predicted to decrease by 18% with every doubling of capacity. Meanwhile conventional sources are increasing in cost, and they produce “externalities” (air pollution) most of us can do without. Reasonable projections say solar will be at parity with conventional sources within 10 years IF we continue to depoly it so that we can get the manufacturing capacity up. Get it? We can’t sit around and wait for it to get cheaper. We don’t have the luxury. We are not going to bankrupt or impoverish ourselves going solar. We are going to pay a bit more now in order to have it in greater capacity for cheaper later. Its called investing.

      I’m not telling you that wind and solar are going to double our generating capacity in 10 years. LEARN TO READ DEAN. I said 10% renewables within 10 years. And I did not say we are going to have a 100% electric only auto fleet in 10 years. I said a higher efficient (conventional) fleet plus increased hybrids. We are at the front end of a long delayed transition. All good things take time.

      I actually like your plan Rupert. Do nothing. I hope it means (LTRR being practiced here) you will do nothing to stop the rest of us liberals ( including your wife perhaps?) from working the problem.

      You can thank us both later for saving your planet.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        >I’m not telling you that wind and solar are going to double our generating capacity in 10 years.

        Who cares, I never claimed you did – LTR

        >And I did not say we are going to have a 100% electric only auto fleet in 10 years.

        Who cares, I never claimed you did – LTR

        Why are you so self centered? What makes you think that any time I write a post everything in it is about you or some sort of rebuttal to you? I made statements, I never claimed you said anything in my post. LTR


        blah blah, oh turbines vs. windmills, big whooop, I don’t care.

        >Reasonable projections say solar will be at parity with conventional sources within 10 years IF we continue to depoly it so that we can get the manufacturing capacity up. Get it?

        Mighty big “if”. And whose reasonable projections, because I have been hearing that one for 25 years.

        And by the way, how much of your wampum is on the line here? I mean you believe in this so obviously you have invested all your money in it? If it will achieve parity in ten years that would be astonishing, and the return on your money would be staggering.

        >We can’t sit around and wait for it to get cheaper. We don’t have the luxury.

        Sure we can, we have plenty of coal, generates electricity just fine. I doubt the true construction time of a coal fired plant is more than three years. Sounds easier to just simply speed up the licensing process, get a few guys with skill saws down there and have at it.

        >We are not going to bankrupt or impoverish ourselves going solar.

        Big whoop, who ever claimed we would – LTR

        >We are going to pay a bit more now in order to have it in greater capacity for cheaper later. Its called investing.

        No its not.

        Investing means someone putting money into something voluntarily and generally expecting some sort of return at a later date.

        Extraction of money through taxes, to pay for things that clearly could and should be developed privately, is not investing, it is government subsidization of an industry or technology.

        That’s the true test right there of the validity of anything you are saying on this point. If what you say is true, fine, people will invest in it like crazy. If what you say is a lie, then people wont. The idea that people wont, of their own free will, invest their money in a technology that will revolutionize power generation in this country within ten years is ludicrous. Thus there is quite a simple test right now for the validity of what you are saying.

        >You can thank us both later for saving your planet.

        Uh oh, I always get a little scared when liberals start patting themselves on the back for saving this or saving that. It generally means a lot of dead people.

        And who is this “both” you are talking about?

        As for the thank you’s, I will be glad to issue them should such an occurrence as your saving the planet actually happen. I personally wouldn’t have the arrogance to think such a thing is possible by humans, but when it comes to arrogance, I never underestimate a liberal.

        Unfortunately you might have to wait a bit as I am still thanking all of you on the left for your work on the Vietnam war. I don’t know if you are taking credit for that as well, but if I forgot to thank you consider this its official issuance “Thank you for the killing fields, loved the boat people thing and those Khmer Rouge death camps, love it baby love it. Thank you so very much”.

  • Jerry

    I must say, I find myself agreeing with Rupert on this one. And, I think his plan A will be what happens, as these politicians are so inept that whatever they do most likely will be the same as doing nothing.
    Maybe we need nuclear cars. They did it OK with subs. I would not mind having an engineer ride around with me if I could drive forever with no fuel stops.

  • Bob Clark

    Probably no one’s on this topic now. But I’ll add that an electric car by the Wikepidia info should be able to run on about 12,000 watts (60 times 2 times 100 light bulb anology), which works out to the .2 Kwh per mile.

    You can beat the all in rough cost estimate of nuclear electricity for 20 mile car trip of $4.80 today by any multitude of different gasoline powered autos. But if we Americans want to be free of Middle East oil and other oil imports, accounting for nearly 40% of our international trade deficit, then as a matter of national independence I think it behooves us to move to an alternative energy regime. Because I value individual freedom and prosperity, I want to save the automobile and other forms of individual transport, and therefore recommend a move to highly fuel efficient automobiles, including electric cars.

    • eagle eye

      Sounds like gas would have to be about $10/gallon for electric to be competitive. (I’m figuring a 40 mpg gas powered car to compare to the electric car; that may be being very generous to the electric vehicle, I’d have to see it to know).

      And of course that hasn’t factored in the likely increasing costs of electricity, the limited miles available for the electric before recharging, the sheer problem of coming up with all that electricity (coal? nuclear? wind? NIMBY! ….)

      I’m afraid people are going to stick with internal combustion engines for a long time to come. Maybe with some help from hybrids.

      • dean

        Eagle…yes…if a long time means several decades, and if we switch to 40MPG cars instead of our current fleet we can probably muddle along. But ultimately the earth is not making more oil. Something has to give, even if we did not care about CO2. Business as usual is over.

        • eagle eye

          Several decades — 50 or a 100 years? — sounds like a pretty long time to me. There is no way you are going to get everyone in electric go-carts or ruin the country’s landscapes with wind turbines or shut down the oil industry, unless you manage to impose massive taxes on fossil fuels and massive subsidies on all the impractical energy schemes that have been around for years. People were saying practically the same stuff 30 years ago.

          So far, whenever anyone actually tries to do this stuff, especially the ruinous taxes, people bite back and the politicians fold.

          Go ahead, propose $10 gas. Right now it’s $4, it would be a lot lower if not for the U.S. government’s ruinous currency devaluation and also our refusal to exploit our fossil fuels. People aren’t going to go for it.

          • dean

            Could be any of the 3. Depends on how we react to the price signal that is hitting us in the head like a 2×4. If we choose to ignore it and wait for more drilling in diminishing pools…well maybe we will get lucky one last time adn can avoid growing up a little longer. If we learn to start treating oil as a finite resource then we will learn to be true conservatives, raise its price, use less, and accelerate the hunt for alternative ways to move ourselves about.

            People were right 30 years ago. Oil was and still is finite. Earlier price rises were met by increased exploration and increased pumping on existing fields. This time…lots of price increase but no new finds and no increased pumping. Why aren’t Iran, Venezuela, the Saudis and others increasing their production to take adavantage of the high price? Maybe they are tapped at the max? Sure looks like it.

            The proposal to open up the “outer” continental shelf says it all. That implies we are at the outer edge of places to explore. There is no outer shelf beyond the outer shelf I am aware of. Only water world.

            It won’t take electric go carts, and it won’t take ruining our land. Strip mining for coal, mountaintop removal, acid mine drainage, fouling beaches with oil spills…now that is ruining the land.

            Even Senator Imhoffe said we would be looking at $1.50 a gallon on a carbon cap and trade…not the $6 you suggest. And he was exagerrating as he always does.

            Fossil fuels are called “fossil” for a reason Eagle. Let’s not become the new dinosauers. Our brains are supposed to be bigger than theirs.

          • eagle eye

            The main reason gas is $4.29 where I shop is because of the ruinous devaluation of the dollar in the past year. Without that, gas would probably be under $3.00. It is not a supply crisis. The price “signal” you refer to is mainly a signal to manage our currency properly.

          • dean

            That is a big part of it. But why the devaluation? Years of balance of trade deficits (to buy oil) and budget deficits (to avoid paying for a very expensive war to secure oil, and to keep the party going past midnight). Followed bu cuts in interest rates to keep the party going past 2AM. It is near dawn and the bar is closing.

            There is no denying the consumption growth for oil in China and India, driven in large part by free trade agreements that fostered their manufacturing and high tech economies. This growth, a hidden “tax” on American workers in the form of higher gas payments, has been fast enough to out run world oil production.

            The numbers on this are pretty compelling. Chinese oil consumption has grown be nearly a million barrels of oil per day since 2005, and india’s has increased by 250,000. (US consumption is actually down a few thousand barrels a day over that period). At the same time, the oil available for export has DECLINED sine 2005. The Saudis, Kuwatis, Iranis, Mexicans, Venezuelans, & Norwegians are all exporting LESS OIL than they were 3 years ago in spite of an incredible runnup in price and demand. Canada, Libya and Iraq have increased their exports, but not by nearly enough to make up the difference.

            Apparently world oil producers have run out of spare capacity. They used to be able to ramp up production to capture the higher prices. No longer. Demand is going to have to come down to available supply, it is not going to go the other way. Electric cars that do not run on oil are going to have to be part of the solution.

          • eagle eye

            Of course there were reasons for the devaluation. I won’t go into your silly business about the “war for oil”. The devaluation didn’t have to happen. Reagan managed a big military buildup, tax cuts, and an appreciating currency all at the same time. (Not to mention falling gas prices). We managed to import plenty of oil under Clinton and not debase the dollar. The present devaluation, like all devaluations, is the result of free choices on the part of the Federal Reserve, the Administration, and Congress.

    • Tim Lyman

      Hi Bob –

      The figure I keep hearing from the electric car people is about $.02 per mile at a cost of $.09 per kwh for a vehicle capable of going 200 miles on a charge.

      I haven’t done enough research to know if this is truth or propaganda, but my quick and dirty calculations of energy cost divided by mileage seem to bear it out. Note that this is fuel (electricity) cost only.

      • eagle eye

        That would be 25 mi. for $.50 worth of electric power. Do you really believe that?

        • dean

          A National Resource Defense Council study on alternative ways to reduce car oil consumption (for global warming purposes) compared conventional fuel vehicles (24 MPG) Hybrid electrics (estimating 39 MPG) and plug in hybrids, not yet commercially available in mass quantities. They estimate that a plug in hybrid that can go 20 miles on a charge (Chevy Volt is shooting for 40) would run on stored electric energy part of the time, and would get 3.2 miles per KWH. Such a car would still need 150 gallons of gas a year, as compared with the 500 gallons used by the conventional car and 300 used by a regular hybrid (Prius). The 150 gallons is used to run a small on board generator to charge up the battery during operation as needed.

          The report summary did not address the issue of cost of electric versus cost of oil. But such a car would use about 2000 KWH of grid energy to go 6000 miles, and it would need 150 gallons of gas to generate the remainder. If a KWH is 9 cents, that is 6000 miles on $180. The 150 gallons would cost another $600. A total of $780 a year to go 12000 miles.

          Compare that to driving 12,000 miles a year in a 24 MPG conventional car. That would cost $2000 if gas is $4 a gallon.

          A “conventional” hybrid (Prius) would not need any grid energy, and would cover that 12,000 miles with about 300 gallons of gas, $1200 cost.

          A fully electric vehicle, if we had such a thing, would go the distance on 4000 KWH, which at 9 cents comes to only $360.

          Conventional car = $2000 fuel cost per year
          Conventional hybrid = $1200 per year
          Plug-in hybrid = $780 a year
          Total electric = $360 fuel per year

          • eagle eye

            Ah, a hybrid? So, even if I believe the not exactly unbiased NRDC — have they contacted any of the world’s car companies? — you don’t get to go a mile just for $.02 — that’s the claim I was responding to — it takes gas, and you need to buy the expensive hybrid technology.

            And $.09 per kW hr is a pretty good price, less than the current U.S. average. It won’t get you a kilowatt in California. (Of course, the cost of added electric power is going to be much more due to carbon taxes, subsidized alternative energy, carbon sequestration, over regulation of nuclear plants, whatever …)

          • dean

            Eagle…point is that the NRDC report, biased or not, was focused on how much CO2 would be saved by plug in hybrids. You would think their bias would say plug ins are the way to go, but they did not reach that conclusion. They cautioned that if the electricity were from coal fired plants, then we would generate LESS carbon by moving to a 40MPG conventional fuel fleet.

            With a plug-in hybrid at 9 cents a KWH it comes out to a mile at 6.5 cents. That compares favorably to the 16.6 cents a mile for a conventionally fueled 24 MPG car. Of course…one has to factor in the capital cost of the car, and its overall utility (size, comfort, range, functions). The plug in hybrid will be spendy at first (the Volt is projected at $36K,) and is probably only transitional to a fully electric car.

            I agree 9 cents a KWH will sem a bargain in a few years. I also think $4 a gallon gas will seem a bargain in a few years. Double both costs and the savings ration remains the same, though the dollar savings increase. The new energy universe has arrived uninvited, and our choices are less than perfect. We have a lot of adjustments to make and need to get on with it. Me…I rode 35 miles on my bicycle yesterday running urban errands. Tiring for a 55 year old.Thankfull for the bike lanes.

          • eagle eye

            I don’t care about the NRDC report or their concerns about CO2, I was talking about the absurd claim that a car can be run for $.02/mi. energy cost.

        • Tim Lyman

          5kw charger charging for 8 hrs = 40kw/h
          40kwh * $.09/kwh = $3.60
          $3.60 / 200 miles = $.018 per mile

      • dean

        Reagan’s experience was an anomaly…not instructions for the present or future. He (and we) benefited from rapidly declining oil prices as a consequence of conservation (Americans were buying more fuel efficient cars in response to the 70s price hikes) and the coming on line of North Sea and other new oil sources. Plus, OPEC members had tons of spare capacity at that time and used it to undercut each other. Plus again, Reagan BEGAN the huge national debt fiasco. He was at the front end, so the economy had a lot of room to service that debt. No longer. We have had to drive interest rates to the floor to keep a non-sustainable consumer economy afloat, and this has driven the dollar down. Remember, Clinton BALANCED the budget, and oil prices were still low. Bush unbalanced it, cut taxes, started an unecessary and turns out very expensive war, and floated the American economy on low interest rates that led to huge increases in home prices, and home equity loans that furthered the consumer party.

        We squandered Eagle. We have allowed our civic infrastructure to go to pot, we built a staggering debt, we bought 10MPG personal vehicles, over-sized houses, RVs, and cut taxes. The party is over. I would think “conservatives” would have a better recognition of this than we liberals.

        We are in for a full generation of belt tightening. Fortunately we have a lot of extra waistline to shed.

        • eagle eye

          What you are saying about Reagan (I think you are replying to another post) is ridiculous. Everyone on the left scoffed when Reagan deregulated gas and predicted the price would go down. I remember. And he had the last laugh on them. One of the many witty things he said, a few years into his presidency, was “I knew my program was beginning to work when they stopped calling it Reaganomics”. I fear we will not see his likes again any time soon.

          It is also not true that dollar devaluation and inflation are an inevitable result of our lifestyle. It is not a result of our SUV’s. It is a result of deliberate mismanagement of the currency. Most of it has happened in the past year. It could be reversed in an equally short time. Reagan (and Volcker) showed how inflation could be ended very rapidly. The lefties scoffed that it would work then, as well. I remember.

          I’m well aware that the leftists want us all to put on hairshirts and do penance for driving cars and having a vibrant economy. But it is not necessary, and given a sensible alternative, the American people will not fall for this.

          The Bush/Bernanke/Congress mismanagement of our currency and government finances has nothing “conservative” about it. It will undoubtedly persist and worsen if we have a President Obama. Maybe McCain will do it better. We’ll see.

          • dean

            Eagle, far be it from me to open a big debate on the Reagan era, but Paul Volker was appointed by Carter, and he began the steady increase in interest rates (monetary policy) before Ron took office. He kept squeezing until the goose was near dead, interest rates in the high teens, unemployment in the low teens. Oregon’s economy, which was far more timber (housing) dependent back then all but shut down. I would say that was a very uncomfortable hair shirt delivered by conservative economic policy.

            Its not “lifestyle” I am writing about. It is a nation living beyond its means year after bloody year. Common sense says that the bill has to be paid. I’m saying that time gas arived uninvited, and this is not because I like wearing hair shirts. I much prefer organic Swedish cotton under garments with fine wool or blends over the top.

            SUVs, particularly the gargantuan ones, are merely symbolic of our overreach. We treated oil like it was a forever cheap resource that we owned or could seize whenver it suited us. We got lulled by a temporary production spike. Numbers don’t lie. Production and export sales are flat and declining in the face of a 4 fold price increase. The dollar has not declined that far. There is much more at work here. We are going to learn to conserve not because environmentalists are telling us to, pleading with us to, but because it is going to cost to much to keep squandering.

            Both prospective presidents have offered unrealistic party on economic prescriptions. McCain’s appears to achieve a lower level of responsibility, but he is handcuffed by the anti-tax wing of his party, which it turns out is the entire party. Obama wants to fullfill too many unmet, pent up domestic spending projects and he won’t be able to do so. Reality is a cruel mistress.

  • John in Oregon

    Dean, there is a funny thing about facts. They don’t react when called names like “luddite”. Facts are neither optimistic or pessimistic. They simply are what they are. You can say otherwise, one can even pound his shoe on the table at the UN and a fact will remain a fact.

    Dean, since you set out to insult and demean the facts you might at least present a proper insult. The Luddites were a movement at the beginning of the industrial revolution who opposed all technology. The facts show present-day technology Oil drilling and processing offers the quickest solution to our short term energy needs. To call those facts which support Oil technology Luddite” misapplies the insult.

    Dean you contend > *It would take at least 10 years to get a new nuke plant in operation. It will take at least 10 years to get offshore or ANWR oil flowing.*

    _Ten years to off shore oil pumping?_ *False.* Canada is pumping Florida oil today, Spain in 6 months and China and India will be in 18 months.

    The Washington Times
    July 24, 2006
    “Canadian companies Sherritt International Co. and Pebercan Inc. *already are pumping more than 19,000 barrels of crude each day from the Santa Cruz, Puerto Escondido, Canasi and other offshore fields in the straits* about 90 miles from Key West, and *Spain’s Repsol oil company has announced the discovery of “quality oil” in deep-water areas* of the same region, the National Ocean Industries Association said.”

    _Ten years to ANWAR oil pumping?_ *False.* In a previous post I have shown the accurate answer is 12 to 24 months. Since you claim 10 years, why is that exactly? Please explain and be specific and accurate. Provide real figures and data not wild Democrat political claims.

    The 800 mile long Alaska Pipeline took 30 months to construct. Nearly 30 miles a month. As I stated previously, we need 50 miles of pipeline from ANWAR to Prudhoe Bay, the north end of the Alaska Pipeline. If I order pipe today it will take 6 months to start taking delivery. If I build only 10 miles a month that’s an additional 5 months or 11 months total. During those 11 months the first few wells can be drilled. If we include super tanker sea time that’s a year for the first refinery drop.

    Double that for a fudge factor, that’s still only 2 years. So where exactly does 10 years come from???

    _Ten years to nuclear power?_ *Again False.*

    Oregon State University developed a small, light water reactor that is modular, very easy to deploy, and has superior economics. The design is pre-licensed and intrinsically safe. The fact that it’s small 45 megawatt building block power plant means it can be completely fabricated and manufactured in the U.S., (in a production line environment) and avoids the construction pinpoints, and the availability of materials. We can deploy these in a *two year time frame.* The other part of it is security. It’s a very secure system. Basically these reactors and containment vessels are built in secure facilities, shipped to the site, and placed in a pool below-grade, it’s very low profile.

    So the answer here is, false, _false,_ and, third strike, *false again*

    Dean you go on > *In that same 10 years we could be up to 10% renewable on electricity and could convert our personal vehicle fleet to much higher efficiency, if not substantially hybrid electric (see Volt story in Atlantic Magazine).*

    Which is it? 10% or 20%? Please make up your mind.

    With which part of the facts that I presented on vehicle batteries do you disagree? Which specific facts do you wish to present in opposition?

    With which part of the facts that I presented on the lack of night time storage of solar power do you disagree? Which specific facts do you wish to present in opposition?

    > *We could be up to 10% on bicycle commuting for that matter (uh oh…shouldn’t have said that here).*

    Dean you are not allowed to claim the low hanging fruit as a government solution. In a free market some people may freely choose to bike commute. They are intrinsically part of the market and those conservation solutions are already spoken for by the people and markets. You don’t get to double count them for Government. And by the way is that 10% real in November, December?

    You said > *The fine print on your Fed moratorium is that it appears to apply to PUBLIC LANDS. Public land projects of any scale require lengthy, extensive environmental impact statements. Not true for most private land projects…*

    Dean that’s *bold faced print,* not at all fine. The productive locations for solar farms are desert areas in Nevada, Southern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Colorado, Texas, and parts of California. Of those states only Texas is not predominately government owned. The state by state ownership of just the Federal land is;

    Nevada 84.5%
    Utah 57.4%
    Arizona 48.1%
    California 45.3%
    New Mexico 41.8%
    Colorado 36.6%
    Texas 1.9%

    Large scale solar projects will work in the southwestern States desert areas. So why is Government the roadblock to those projects?

    Oregon is exactly the wrong place to be building solar, but lets ignore that to test your assertion that they will be built on private land. In Oregon the large tracts of private land are timber land. Do you honestly believe that someone like the Stimson Lumber Company would be allowed to build one Watt of solar power?

    With Oregon laws that prohibit Nuclear power and a Governor who by executive action stalls Geothermal, closes beaches, suspends sport and commercial fishing, prohibits wave power, roadblocks tide power, prevents drilling, and curtails timber harvest and thinning, do you really think a productive solar power project would be allowed on Oregon private property?

    I addressed Oregon Solar in a previous post. Let me repeat, Oregon straddles 45 degrees North Latitude. This far north during the winter months, November, December, January, February we get short days and that’s the time of year when we need power for light and heat the most. Oregon gets 1/2 the sun of San Diego.

    The variable day length problem coupled with other problems make home or office solar problematic. Most populations are in areas which are frequently cloudy, with limited space, shadowing problems from trees and buildings, and less than optimum sun angle. The small installations are unlikely to ever pay back the energy cost of manufacturing the panels.

    Regarding solar you commented > *[L]ast I looked most solar installations are on private lands, or on rooftops, like those about to go onto Multnomah County government buildings.*

    Lets evaluate this Multnomah Co. project carefully and accurately.

    First what Multnomah Co. is doing is an end run around the Congressional Prohibition of Government becoming involved in alternate power projects. The County is prohibited by Congressional action from receiving subsidies so the County will lease for $1 per year to a private company who can.

    Second with current technology solar, not counting NST, the pay back on solar photo voltaic is 20 plus years. That is it takes 20 years to begin producing more energy than was required to manufacture and install the project.

    Third the Portland area weather only receives around 50% of the possible sun hours on average per year. The energy break-even point is now pushed out to more than 40 Years. In other words for the next 40 years this project will represent a *net energy loss.*

    This project is only possible due to massive subsidies. Subsidies from the federal government with added $1 per year local government subsidies. The project should not be built and would not be built without Government manipulation of the market!

    One last point. You hold out Germany as the “leader” in solar.

    *Germany Debates Subsidies for Solar Industry*
    New York Times May 16, 2008
    “Now, though, with so many solar panels on so many rooftops, critics say Germany has too much of a good thing — even in a time of record oil prices. Conservative lawmakers, in particular, want to pare back generous government incentives that support solar development. They say solar generation is growing so fast that it threatens to *overburden consumers with high electricity bills.*

    Dean, the solar power contribution in Germany is 00.6%. If subsidies, even in that tiny amount of solar threaten to ” overburden consumers with high electricity bills” why do you think it will work in Oregon?

    > *Google and others are investing hundreds of millions in solar thermal, which uses the sun’s energy to make steam to turn conventional turbines, as opposed to photo-voltaic. The big advantage of solar thermal is it allows for heat storage for nightime (sic) and cloudy days.*

    Yes Dean I understand that solar thermal is an attempt to work around the night time storage problem. It may work for small scale projects. The real question is will it work for the large scale projects which we need? How long is the energy pay back?

    You comment > *Existing technology that is rapidly improving.*

    Of course technology improves with time and solar is a future application. You are talking about using current hardware in a future application that may or may not appear at some unknown time in the future.

    The real problem here is Government manipulation which drives markets down one blind ally after another. The Ethanol fiasco just being the latest example.

    Worse this is all being done on the false litany of “Our resources are running out. The air is bad, the water worse. The planet’s species are dying off – more exactly, we’re killing them -at the staggering rate of 100,000 peryear, a figure that works out to almost 2,000 species per week, 300 per day, 10 per hour, another dead species every six minutes. We’re trashing the planet, washing away the topsoil, paving over our farmlands, systematically deforesting our wildernesses, decimating the biota, and ultimately killing ourselves.”

    • dean

      John…my luddite comment was facetious. I don’t think you are a luddite.

      10 years is the optimistic estimate used by public and private utilities who would have to pick a site, design the nuke plant, get permits, raise funds, and build the project. Not my estimate. No public or private utility in the US has chosen nuclear for the last 20 some years because it costs too much, takes too long, has high risks, and has too much opposition from down winders.

      The US Energy Department has been offering to PAY utillities to take one of the new French designs and build it as a prototype…and still NO TAKERS. So I’ll stand by my 10 year estimate, assuming a utility started a project tomorrow…OSU not withstanding.

      Oh…and IF they built a plant, you and I get stuck with the waste, and you and I get stuck insuring the plant against a catostrophic accident. Lousy deal.

      China is not drilling for oil in the Gulf. Urban myth. Cuba has taken bids on off shore exploration in IT’S territorial waters. China apparently was not a bidder, US COMAPNIES could not bid because of our trade embargo.

      ANWR has not even had exploritory wells for oil yet. The 10 year estimate to production is not from Dean. It is from the US Energy Information Administration.

      Buying pipe and laying it is the least of it. There is passing a bill. There is bidding leases. There are environmental impact studies. There is exploration. There is well development. And THEN there is the pipe. You have not SHOWN anything John. You are PIPE DREAMING (pun).

      47% of Utah is 40,000 square miles. 52% of Arizona is well over 50,000 square miles. Should I go on with geography? Private lands in arid states are just as sunny as the Federal lands…actually more so when you consider that much of the Federal land is in the forested mountains, where it rains and snows due to orographic lift. Plus the Federal lands are farther from utility infrastructure. Nevada….maybe you have a case, but even there the BLM is selling federal lands to private developers as fast as they can adn reinvesting the money up at Lake Tahoe.

      10% renewables in 10 years is a reasonable goal. 20% is probably unrealistic due to lack of investment capital and available materials. But if we had 10% renewable electric PLUS 10 years of fleet conversion to 35 MPG cars PLUS 10 more years of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the Portland area (1/2 Oregon’s population) PLUS continued transit development then we are well on our way to a decent future for our kids and grandkids. Better idea than spending what is left of their inheritance so we can continue our irresponsible party going in 10 MPG rigs, don’t you agree?

      I believe you are way misinterpreting the “payback” on solar. The payback on energy expended is estimated at 1-4 years for Oregon. The economic payback is longer, though with present rebates and incentives is not bad at all. Nowehere near 40 years for residential applications. I have no problem at all with subsidies for renewable energy in order to help get us moving and build the economies of scale.

      Solar is a partial solution that obviously works better in summer than in winter at 45 degrees north. Duh. That is factored into the payback equation. 4 peak sun hours a day is the target, and we get that in the W. Valley from March to October. In winter we have oodles of hydro power in most years….plus wind.

      A recent study says that by investing $26-33 Billion per year, the US can get to 10% solar electric energy by 2025. We are spending that amount every 2 months in the Iraq occupation.

      And solar electric costs are coming down while fossil fuel costs are going up. If it were the other way I would be worried.

      Google investors are not stupid. We will see how that plays out.

      John…solar is not a “future” application. It is a “present” application.

      Government already manipulates energy markets. What the hell is the Iraq war if not an effort to have friendly governments controlling the major pool of available oil? That is not market manipulation? Oil depletion allowances are not market manipulation? Dedicating gas taxes to pavement is not manipulation? Guarenteeing to take nuclear waste off the hands of private power companies is not market manipulation? Coal rail transport subsidies are not market manipulation?

      And what about leasing sites off shore or in ANWR for oil? Those are public property John. Leasing them out in the hope that this will lower pump prices is also market manipulation isn’t it?

      John….modern human development is built on a foundation of natural resource exploitation. The legacy of destroyed and damaged ecosystems and human cultures is not something you should make light of, or pretend like it never happened. What some of us….an increasing number of us are hoping for is that we can maintain a high standard of living while we also stop pillaging and start rebuilding ecosystems and landscapes. We can’t keep doing things the old way. We need to use our smarts to move to a new phase. Resources are eng used up faster than they can be exploited. Species are dying off, primarily in the tropics and on vulnurable islands that have high numbers of endemics. Midwestern topsoil is filling the Mississippi River channel, one reason the floods are getting worse. Fortunately we are not “deforesting wilderness.” At least not protected wilderness.

      But yes…in the end the earth is our life support system. We ought to recognize that and not take it lightly.

      Too late. The government is in the energy business up to its neck. The question is the wisest course, and in my view it is away from fossil fuels wil due deliberate speed.

    • John in Oregon

      Dean you said . *Government already manipulates energy markets…. Oil depletion allowances are not market manipulation? Dedicating gas taxes to pavement is not manipulation? Guarenteeing (sic) to take nuclear waste off the hands of private power companies is not market manipulation? Coal rail transport subsidies are not market manipulation?*

      You left out drilling bans, exploration bans, refinery bans, LNG terminal bans, ethanol mandates, and on and on.

      But Yes *you are correct* the government is in the middle of energy markets. And it’s an outstanding job they are doing isnt it? Thank you for bringing up such a perfect example.

      You commented > *John….modern human development is built on a foundation of natural resource exploitation. The legacy of destroyed and damaged ecosystems and human cultures is not something you should make light of, or pretend like it never happened. What some of us….an increasing number of us are hoping for is that we can maintain a high standard of living while we also stop pillaging and start rebuilding ecosystems and landscapes. We can’t keep doing things the old way. We need to use our smarts to move to a new phase. Resources are eng (sic) used up faster than they can be exploited. Species are dying off, primarily in the tropics and on vulnurable (sic) islands that have high numbers of endemics. (sic) Midwestern topsoil is filling the Mississippi River channel, one reason the floods are getting worse. Fortunately we are not “deforesting wilderness.” At least not protected wilderness.*

      Congratulations you did an excellent job presenting rationally Dr. Paul Ehrlich’s thesis that humans are overrunning the planet. And we can all think of things like the pollution of Lake Baikal.

      Unless we act decisively, the final result is written in stone: mass poverty, famine, starvation, and death. No less than Ted Turner said it within the last month invoking the image of mass cannibalism. Time is _short,_ and we have to act *NOW.*

      But its *not true* lets take a look at Dr. Ehrlich’s predictions.

      >The battle to feed humanity is over. In the *1970s* the world will undergo famines . . . hundreds of millions of people including Americans are going to starve to death.” India and China will collapse of famines of unbelievable proportions.

      > “Smog disasters” in 1973 will kill 200,000 people a year in New York and Los Angeles.

      > “I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

      > “Before 1985, mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity . . . in which the accessible supplies of many key minerals will be facing depletion.”

      > Urban sprawl is paving over the United States, including much “prime agricultural land” and recreational areas.
      —– Fact: All the land used for urban areas plus roadways totals less than 3 percent of the United States…

      _None of Dr. Ehrlich’s predictions happened. Not one!_

      Now lets consider what Professor Julian Simon an economist and statistician said, predicted and has proven.

      From a 1982 debate;
      _Julian Simon:_ “The facts are fundamental.”
      _Garrett Hardin:_ The facts are not fundamental. The theory is fundamental.

      This represents as Simon thinks, an opposition between fact and bad theory, a case of empirical reality versus abstract principles that purport to define the way things work but don’t. “It’s the difference,” he says, “between a _speculative analysis of what *must* happen_ versus my empirical analysis of *what has happened* over the long sweep of history.”

      And what FACTS did Julian Simon find?

      > The air is cleaner
      > The water cleaner
      > The planet’s species are not dying off.
      > The world is getting progressively richer.
      > There is no legacy of destroyed, pillaged, and damaged ecosystems.
      > Resources are not being used up.
      > Topsoil is not being washing away and not filling the rivers.
      > Human development is built on a foundation human effort and not natural resource exploitation.

      The instances like Lake Baikal are almost always the result of Government action. The White Rhino is recovering now that private ownership has been allowed.

      Recently Bjørn Lomborg a statistician at the University of Aarhus revisited Julian Simon’s work with the attempt to disprove the unorthodox findings of the University of Maryland Professor.

      Professor Lomborg, with ten of his “sharpest students”, started their examination of Simon’s work in 1997. They expected to disprove Simon’s conclusions but, to their surprise, found that ‘… _a surprisingly large amount of his points stood up to scrutiny’_ and _conflicted with conventional wisdom._

      > *[D]rilling for oil in the Gulf. Urban myth.*

      You are right Sherritt International Co. and Pebercan Inc. are not pumping, Spain’s Repsol oil company didn’t announce the discovery of “quality oil” in deep-water areas of the same region, and the National Ocean Industries Association didn’t make a report.

      I forgot that Congress banned drilling in north Cuban waters and 35 miles inland of Cuba. I expect Nancy will be going down to Cuba shortly to enforce the ban.

      Dean you categorically state > *The US Energy Department has been offering to PAY utillities (sic) to take one of the new French designs and build it as a prototype…and still NO TAKERS. So I’ll stand by my 10 year estimate, assuming a utility started a project tomorrow…OSU not withstanding.*

      Oh really?

      *U.S. eyes plans for 34 nuclear power plants*
      MENAFN – – Friday, June 13, 2008

      NEW YORK (Menafn – MarketWatch) — As the U.S. moves into its most critical time of the year for electricity, the nuclear power industry is ramping up efforts to build as many as 34 new plants to bring the U.S.’s total fleet to about 138 reactors in the future.

      Don’t expect any new plants to take up the summer power slack until about 2013 [5 years from now]

      The newer designs boast a wider use of modular parts to cut down on construction costs and standardized designs to improve safety and speed to build. [OSU withstanding!]

      *Passive features in the new models include the storage of large deposits of water directly above the reactor, so water can drop via gravity for cooling in an emergency, instead of pumping it in.*

      The Tennessee Valley Authority’s _Watts Bar Unit 2_ nuclear reactor about 50 miles southwest of Knoxville, Tenn., holds a front-running position in efforts to beef up the nation’s nuclear fleet, *with a permit to resume construction* from the NRC

      In _May of 2007,_ The Tennessee Valley Authority re-started the 1,150 megawatt _Browns Ferry 1_ reactor in Decatur, Ala., after a two decade shutdown.

      The NRC expects to receive 13 applications to build 19 generating units in 2008, about double the pace of 2007, which saw five applications to build eight units.

      > *Oh…and IF they built a plant, you and I get stuck with the waste, and you and I get stuck insuring the plant against a catostrophic (sic) accident. Lousy deal.*

      There is a word that fits here. *RECYCLING* Reprocess the fuel, remove the 3% waste, reuse the good fuel, and drop the 12 Cu Ft of waste down a 15,000 foot bore hole. Only an environmentalist would argue for throwing it all away in a dump. Accident? The OSU design is intrinsically safe, there won’t be a catastrophic accident.

      You argue > *I believe you are way misinterpreting the “payback” on solar. The payback on energy expended is estimated at 1-4 years for Oregon. The economic payback is longer, though with present rebates and incentives is not bad at all. Nowehere near 40 years for residential applications. I have no problem at all with subsidies for renewable energy in order to help get us moving and build the economies of scale.*

      You have it exactly backwards. Energy costs are built into the product price. Subsidies obscure the real dollar cost of the product and leave unchanged the Energy cost of manufacture. So subsidies reduce the end user cost only.

      Present solar technology requires the need for Silicon or other energy intensive production materials and high-vacuum chamber based deposition techniques. All very energy intensive.

      Lets look at real unsubsidized costs. Current technology is at $10 per watt.
      Present delivered power cost is $0.06 per 1000 WattHours.
      $0.00006 per WattHour
      Hours of operation required to return $10 =
      $10 per Watt / $0.00006 per WattHour = 166,667 Hours
      Years of operation to return $10 =
      166,667 Hours / 4380 Total possible sun hours = 38 years

      Now lets take a look at the Multnomah Co. project. Its an after market one off scattering of panels hither, thither and yon. That’s the most energy intensive way to collect solar power. Custom mounting and a larger number of case by case wiring, smaller less efficient inverters, and regulators pushes up the cost.

      Lets say that pushes up the cost by _only 25%,_ pay back is now;
      38 years X 1.25 Cost = 47.5 years.
      BUT prime sun hours is only 2628 hours not the 4380 possible hours but lets ignore that,
      AND only consider that Portland weather only gets 50% of the possible prime hours. That alone moves the break even point out to 95 years.

      Its interesting that not once does Multnomah Co. consider any of these questions. They only look at after subsidy cost and consider that proof of green energy production.

      I didn’t use energy for the above calculation because exact numbers will depend on the make and model of panel used. Present solar technology manufacturing is very Energy intensive. There is only three ways to imporve this situation.

      1] Increase panel conversion efficiency from the current mid 20’s percent to between 50% and 70%.
      2] Reduce the use of energy intensive raw materials.
      3] More efficient manufacturing techniques.

      It’s steps 2 and 3 that NanoSolar Technology has focused on. If NST can bring the cost per watt from $10 down to $2 that brings 95 Years down to 19 Years. That’s a huge step in the right direction. Will that future technology work out? NST is privately held but I would invest my own money if I could.

      • dean

        John…I work in the field of ecological restoration and was lead editor for the major book on this topic in our region (Restoring the Pacific Northwest, Island Press). On Simon’s “findings:”

        1) To the extent air is cleaner it is because of GOVERNMENT regulation that made industry build cleaner technology.

        2) To the extent water is cleaner, we have the Clean Water Act to thank, which ushered in extensive regulations.

        3) Many species ARE disappearing, mostly in the tropics and on islands. To the extent we have slowed species extinction in the US, we have the ENDNAGERED SPECIES ACT to thank…i.e. yet more government.

        4) The Pacific Northwest is arguably the most ecologically intact region in the developed world. Yet our salmon are at 5% of their historic average level, our river ecosystems are on life support, our prairie grasslands are down to less than 1% of their original extent (in fragments of 50 acres or less,) our oak savannas are basically gone, 80% of the original riparian forest along the Willamette River is no longer in existence, Only 3% of the riparian forest of our entire coast range has old growth trees, we are STILL LOSING 500 acres of wetland every year in the W. Valley….etc….

        Simon simply had no idea what he was talking about with respect to ecosystems, and if you rely on his findings you are in the same boat.

        On topsoil, the Palouse region of eastern Washington and north central Oregon has the highest soil erosion rates in the United States. A wheat farmer in Kansas I met said the elevation of his farm is a full 1 foot lower than when his grandfather farmed it. And this is flat land.

        Human development is both. It relies on natural resource exploitation in its agricultural and early industrial development stages, and then it “hopefully” progresses to a knowledge based economy that rebuilds ecosystems. Maybe. Time will tell.

        Simon’s key idea was that human ingenuity will overcome resource shortages. He did not say we ould not run out of oil. He said at some point, as oil grew more scarce we would find subsitutes. Okay, here we are. It is more scarce. Where is the substitute?

        On nuclear…do you think any of your inherently safe plants can be built if we repeal Price-Anderson?

      • John in Oregon

        Dean you said > *Many species ARE disappearing, mostly in the tropics and on islands. To the extent we have slowed species extinction in the US, we have the ENDNAGERED (sic) SPECIES ACT to thank…i.e. yet more government.*

        Professor Ehrlich’s claim was that species are being killed at -at the staggering rate of 100,000 per year, a figure that works out to almost 2,000 species per week, 300 per day, 10 per hour, another dead species every six minutes.

        Four million species of the Earth’s 3 to 10 million species gone just since the book was written!

        More reasonable people advance the number 40,000 per year that ecologists have been forecasting for the year 2000.

        Professor Simon holds that the number is no where near that high. In fact Simon claimed that numbers around three orders of magnitude lower were more accurate. Professor Simon says “It’s the difference, between a speculative analysis of what _must happen_ versus my empirical analysis of what _has happened_ over the long sweep of history.”

        Dean with your resources you are in a unique position to challenge Dr. Simon’s numbers. Ecologists predicted 40,000 extinction’s in the year 2000. In 2008 there has been more than sufficient time for all those extinction’s to have been documented. It should be easy to document not 40,000, not 4,000, nor 400, but only 40 extinctions would challenge Simon. A simple list of 40 extinct species, either fauna or flora, where they were observed to go extinct, who made the observation and where the event was documented.

        That seems really simple to me.

        • dean

          John….the number of DOCUMENTED species extinctions is few. In the high hundreds world wide. The accepted estimates are much higher….around 100,000 per year, as Erlich noted. How can this be?

          For one, the earth has only 1.6 million named species, but undoutably far more undiscovered or named ones. THe estimate on insects alone is 10-30 million. Islands and the tropics have very high numbers of endemics, meaning very localized species. I won’t go into the reasons for this, but biological diversity is simply way way higher on a single acre of Amazon or New Guinian Forest than it is on 1,000 acres of Oregon forest. By using species to area ratios and measuring the loss or fragmentation of habitat, ecologists generate these alarming numbers. They are extrapolating from known data, not proving the absence of a particular species. For example, field studies in New Guinea have demonstrated that reducing forest habitat patches to smaller sizes results in 10-50% of species going extinct within the fragment within 100 years. This is classic Island Biogeography. Assuming X number of endemics, and Y loss of habitat, you get not just local but total extinction.

          I’ll quote from E. O. Wilson below:

          “Now consider that some 35 percent of Earth’s land vertebrates and 44 percent of its plant species are limited to 1.4 percent of its land surface, the 25 widely recognized “hotspots,” which contain about the land mass of Alaska and Texas put together. Consider, too, that the forests and other habitats in these remaining areas have been reduced to 10 percent of their prehuman levels (see, for example, Norman Myers et al., Nature 403, 2000), and most are at immediate risk of disappearing.”

          Most of the species going extinct are ones no one has even studied or documented, so how can one have “documented’ their extinction? You can’t account for the absence of something not accounted for in the first place. Most are (were) tiny insects, bacteria, and fungi. Some probably had chemical attributes that humans would have found useful.

          So…Simon’s analysis on species extinction rates is simply not relevant. He was full of proverbial crap on this issue. He may have been brilliant at economics (though lucky for him he died before the price of oil exploded, blowing one of his key predictions,) but he did not know ecology. I suggest you get a hold of some E.O. Wilson and bone up John. The world is bigger than economics, and economists show their limits when they step outside their field of expertise.

          On Simon’s larger point about human ingenuity, I tend to agree with him, which is why I am “optimistic” that we can tansition to less damaging energy sources successfully.

      • John in Oregon

        > *To the extent air is cleaner it is because of GOVERNMENT regulation that made industry build cleaner technology.*


        Hazel Henderson researcher and author already had that discussion at the July 1996 public event sponsored by the World Future Society. Henderson came armed with a graph showing a decline in pollution levels in London since the late 1950s. The slope of the line was clearly downward, illustrating conclusively the effect of London’s Clean Air Act of 1956. Case closed.

        Not quite. Simon presented a graph of his own. His own chart of smoke levels in London stretched back into the 1800s, and the line from the 1920s on showed a constant and uniform downward slope. Smoke levels fell in the 1930s. Smoke levels fell in the 1940s. They fell again in the 1950s, the 1960s, the 70s and 80s. “If you look at all the data,” Simon said, “you can’t tell that there was a clean-air act at any point.”

        Little known today, the valley surrounding Los Angeles was well known to early west coast Indians. Residents of LA in the 1940s knew well the Indian name for the valley with its frequent natural air inversions. Variously translated the Indian name for the area was the valley of smoke, the land of smoke and fire.

        In the 1910s pollution was a problem, in the 1920s smoke and pollution was a problem, in the 1930s a problem. During the war years WW2 was the priority. All effort went to war production and the pollution got much worse.

        The passengers of the 1926 Douglas Defense plant taxi knew it was their responsibility that the old broken belt salvaged from a mans pair of pants was tight around the door post to keep the doors closed. At nearly 300,000 miles, belching blue smoke on bald tires the passengers knew that every mile that old taxi traveled was a mile in a jeep for our boys fighting the war.

        By the 1950s the pent-up demand and the new found public wealth resulted in expansion of personal vehicles and wide spread modernization of industrial capacity. 1926 Chevy taxies went to the junk yard to be replaced by more efficient, less polluting modern vehicles. Power plants were replaced by more efficient less polluting plants. No longer on a war footing the public and market attention turned again to pollution. And pollution was slowly falling in the 1950s even as the population grew. In the late 50s the VW Beetle was introduced and sales grew.

        In the 50s New York City converted away from coal heating. Depriving the popular childhood game FORT of coal clinkers for ammunition.

        Then nearly a decade later Doctor Paul Ehrlich raised the alarm. In 1968 Ehrilich announced the world had less than 30 years of life left. Starvation in the billions in India and China. By 1973, only 5 years in the future 200,000 a year dead in LA. Generating a great deal of hysteria and very little fact, Ehrilich the doomsayer appears on the Tonight Show. And pollution continued to fall in the 1960s.

        Finally the Government springs into action in 1970 strengthening the clean air act.

        Historians rush in to sweep the facts I mentioned above into the dust bin of revisionist history. The Indian name for the LA area is expunged as historians discover Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. As an explorer, having never before seen at a distance Indian campfires, Cabrillo names Santa Monica Bay the Bay of Smoke. Expecting I am sure that he would never again see such an unusual sight as campfires in the distance.

        Dean > *Simon’s key idea was that human ingenuity will overcome resource shortages. He did not say we ould (sic) not run out of oil. He said at some point, as oil grew more scarce we would find subsitutes. (sic) Okay, here we are. It is more scarce. Where is the substitute?*

        This is a fallacious presentation of what Dr. Simon observed. First lets look at what Dr. Ehrlich believed. In a nutshell;

        Resources are finite. Food is finite. The enemies are consumption, population, and growth. We are running out of everything. In shot wealth is limited. One group of humans can only become wealthy at the expense of another group of humans poorer. We know the solution, cut back, contract, make do with less. “Live simply so that others may simply live.”

        Dean, these are the _facts_ that Dr. Simon _observed;_

        Resources are the result of human effort. Food is the result of human endeavor. _New wealth_ is created by human activity. Babes grow up to be creative adults who contribute and achieve, who give back far more than they ever take. . Raw materials _all of them_ have become less scarce rather than more.

        All of which, Simon observed, is exactly what has happened throughout history. If you look at the facts – as opposed to theories – you find precisely the reverse of the situation described by Dr. Ehrlich. Exactly the opposite! Read the Wired article!

        So which of these are correct?

        *Dr. Ehrlich:*
        “The _battle_ to feed all of humanity _is over._ In the 1970s and 1980s _hundreds of millions of people will starve_ to death _in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now._ At this late date _nothing can prevent_ a substantial increase in the world death rate, although many lives could be saved through dramatic… providing for _more equitable distribution_ of whatever food is available. But these programs will only provide a _stay of execution_ unless they are accompanied by determined and successful efforts at population control”

        *Dr. Simon:*
        Resources, for the most part, don’t grow on trees. _People produce them, they create them,_ whether it be food, factories, machines, new technologies, or stockpiles of mined, refined, and purified raw materials. “Resources come out of people’s minds more than out of the ground or air. Minds matter economically as much as or more than hands or mouths. Human beings create more than they use, on average. It had to be so, or we would be an extinct species.”

        > *The Pacific Northwest is arguably the most ecologically intact region in the developed world. Yet our salmon are at 5% of their historic average level, our river ecosystems are on life support…*

        *Salmon increase tenfold in Columbia River run*
        Sacramento Bee
        Sunday, June 29, 2008
        BOISE, Idaho – Ten times as many sockeye salmon are returning to the Columbia River as last year, which could mean the highest return for Idaho’s most endangered fish in more than 30 years… The Columbia River sockeye run has already doubled initial predictions and is on track to be the highest return since the 1950s.

        *Salmon Returns Set Records, Ring Cash Registers*
        Department of the Interior
        Portland, Oregon September 7, 2001
        More than one million coho salmon, 500,000 steelhead and 300,000 Chinook salmon are expected to return to the Columbia River basin this fall, fueling the biggest fishing frenzy in decades and generating millions of dollars for local economies… Some 391,000 adult spring chinook crossed Bonneville Dam, the largest return since counting began when the dam was built in 1938.

        *Litigation only delays recovery*
        July 1, 2008
        Northwest River Partners on June 17, 2008 said that renewed efforts by environmental groups to prolong litigation over federal and tribal plans for salmon recovery in the Columbia and Snake Rivers demonstrate a failure to look beyond their narrow interest of dam removal at a time of worldwide concern over climate change.
        In commenting on the new complaint, Terry Flores, executive director of Northwest RiverParners said, “once again the litigants are rejecting fair- reaching science-based benefits for salmon in the Columbia-Snake River system.” Flores said, “Unfortunately, this continuing campaign to remove the dams has diverted significant time and resources from further salmon recovery efforts that our region has agreed to implement.”

        *NOAA seven stocks removed from overfishing list none added*
        June 30, 2008
        NOAA announced today that seven stocks have been removed from the overfishing list and no new stocks added in their annual report to Congress on the status of fishing stocks. The report tracks both population levels and harvest rates for species caught in federal waters between three and 200 miles off U.S. coasts. This year’s report indicates that seven stocks have been removed from the overfishing list, four stocks have increased population levels and are no longer overfished, and three stocks are now listed as fully “rebuilt.”

        • dean

          John…you have a talent for drawing sweeping conclusions from skimpy data. Northwest salmon runs wax and wane with ocean conditions, but there is no question that the base population of wild fish is a very small fraction of historic levels.

          As for the rest…sure, human ingenuity. But that is not going to find more resources where there are none left. Using London as the example to chalenge the effectiveness of the US clean air act is beyond strange…..some would call it reaching.

          Yes, LA has always had inversions. But it did not historically have 17 million people driving cars, oil refineries, backyard barbeques, and so forth. The earth has limits John. And we have limits as well.

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