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Remind me again why electricity is going to be so expensive and scarce?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 03:16:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...because... well, seems to me the process of rebuilding the power infrastructure has to be done using the last of the fossil fuels -- at $150 -- $200 -- $250 a barrel? -- and so (imho) far fewer new generation plants of whatever kind will be built than we fondly dream when we imagine "transitioning to an electricity-based economy," because the costs of construction will skyrocket during the construction period -- and costs of construction have to be paid back, with interest... so the prices charged for electricity after the new plants start generating will, most likely, have to repay the extremely high terminal costs of construction under the sagging canopy of the fossil fuel economy -- debt financing, as Chris Cook has often discussed.  projects also may be abandoned by municipalities or private parties unable to stay ahead of the budget overruns.  

there's a definite chicken/egg problem -- the transition should have started at least 40 years ago, when fossil energy was still cheap :-)  now the transition itself is very expensive -- and in conflict with other potential uses for the fossil fuels, some of them preferred by powerful interests.  (now let's see here, shall we fuel the US air and water fleet to go flatten Iran, or shall we build some new power plants?  which sounds like more fun, Daddy Warbucks?)

the focus of our thinking -- especially that of entrenched elites whose fortunes depend on biz as usual -- is still "how can we keep doing things pretty much like we have since 1950, but [waves magic wand, twingggg!] without fossil fuel?" rather than "how differently do we have to do things to live w/in the solar budget?"  imho the private auto paradigm is one cultural signature that only evolved out of insanely cheap fossil fuels, and can't continue except in that very special, bizarre environment... sort of an extremophile cultural development.  in the absence of absurdly cheap energy -- to maintain the expensive infrastructure and overcome the inherent inefficiencies of the model -- it just doesn't work.  so will electricity be absurdly cheap in the future?  place your bets...  I bet "no".  cheaper than the last drops of fossil fuel, almost certainly;  but never as absurdly cheap as fossil fuel was in its heyday.

I imagine private vehicles of the future looking more like the Twike and Sparrow (the Smartcar and GEM car are already wandering off down that evolutionary path) cropping up, crossbreeds of the bicycle and the motorbike/sidecar and the smallest cars (like the old 3 wheel Reliant).  basically, electric bikes with 3 or 4 wheels and a lightweight hard or semirigid canopy, and some cargo space.  all the features of a "car" except for absurd mass, insane accelerations, and pedestrian-annihilating travel speeds :-)  [heaven only knows what macho muscle car drivers will then have to do to enact their masculinity in public places -- let us draw a curtain of decent reticence over the possibilities, and move on.]

thanks to the wonders of markets, we can all place our money where our mouths are -- all those who believe electricity will be "too cheap to meter" (or at least relatively cheap) w/in 15 years should go out and buy electric powered SUVs equipped with as many drink holders as possible, on-board refrigerator and TV screens for the kids embedded in the seatbacks, and so on.  those who believe all delivered energy -- fossil dregs, electric, biomass -- will be relatively expensive compared to today... well, move closer to work (or buy some land and start permacultivating), sell the car(s), get a bike, insulate your house, blah blah.  you know the drill by now.  pack light 'cos it's going to be a long rough ride.

btw, iirc both Kevlar and CF are extremely energy-intensive to produce -- exemplars of the fossil-fuelled "heat, beat and treat" paradigm of materials engineering.  so... CF may be getting even more expensive soon.  I kinda doubt that a CF car body -- like CF bike frames -- will ever be a breadnbutter model.  hey, we can always hope I'm wrong :-)  but since I have no plans ever to own a car -- or fly in an airplane -- again, I take a fairly detached view of the whole enchilada.  much more concerned at present about the cost of resins, hardeners, polyurethanes, extruded fibers, zinc, etc.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 09:25:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
heaven only knows what macho muscle car drivers will then have to do to enact their masculinity in public places

Are you talking about soccer moms here?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 02:49:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually I was thinking specifically of monster trucks, having that very day had a narrow escape from the driver of one, whose personal expression of masculine panache involved ignoring zebra crossings.

Soccer moms, in my limited experience, tend to be more distracted than aggressive -- but at the helm of 6000 lbs of steel [oh gawd, the resources, the energy, the pollution generated just to make the damn thing let alone drive it!!!] distracted is just about as dangerous as aggro.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 12:37:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When I was a student there was this huge jacked-up pickup truck parked in my apartment complex. One morning I was <gasp> walking to campus when I saw this really short guy heave himself up to the dricer's seat (and I say heave because he was so short and the truck jacked up so high he couldn't put his foot up to the step to get in. Some time later he was selling it for 3 times my teaching assistant stipend.

As for the soccer mums, my observation is that the larger the SUV the smaller the soccer mum driving it. They must also be compensating for something.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 06:13:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by redstar on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 06:22:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...because... well, seems to me the process of rebuilding the power infrastructure has to be done using the last of the fossil fuels -- at $150 -- $200 -- $250 a barrel? -- and so (imho) far fewer new generation plants of whatever kind will be built than we fondly dream when we imagine "transitioning to an electricity-based economy," because the costs of construction will skyrocket during the construction period -- and costs of construction have to be paid back, with interest... so the prices charged for electricity after the new plants start generating will, most likely, have to repay the extremely high terminal costs of construction under the sagging canopy of the fossil fuel economy -- debt financing, as Chris Cook has often discussed.  projects also may be abandoned by municipalities or private parties unable to stay ahead of the budget overruns.

Well,  interest rates are spectacularly low at the present time in the USA.  Companies with good credit positions are using the "downturn" as an opportunity to renovate and upgrade existing facilities, T.Boone Pickens, not exactly a fool when it comes to money, has  invested $2billion,(out of an eventual $10 to $12 billion?) for 1GW of capacity in G.E. windmills for a wind farm that near Amarillo, Texas that is planned to expand to 4GW by 2014. European windmill manufacturers are setting up manufacturing facilities at the Port of Little Rock, among other locations. Nucor is planning to set up a new, large scale sheet steel facility, probably in Louisiana.  The economics only improve as  oil prices increase.    

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 03:09:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the short term it is going to be. transition cost again...gas prices will increase and a lot of countries have combined cycle power stations as the on-off power stations.. the same goes for coal which could increase price given the huge mill clsigns in most parts of the world.

But after the trasnition... it is going to be rather cheap...

wind, hydro, geo and nuclear (for a couple of centruies at least) are getting extremely competitive right now...and sun probably in less than half century.
I am with you here.. I do not see electricity expensive in 25 years.... the world can duplciate capacity getting rid of coal in 25 years...

25 years are almost two power generation cycles...nuclear can indeed cover for gas and wind, hydro, home isolation can cover for "any of the increases"...at that point coal/global warming force us to get rid of it... I hope sun will come to the rescue....(or huge win sea platforms).

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 06:15:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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