Fat Steve's Blatherings

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Lying by definition

      There's this new meme floating around, the '500 mpg car.'  You can see it, for example, in the latest column by Max Boot.

      Nice, but it isn't true.  The column talks of hybrid cars that can be plugged into the wall, so you can run them off batteries till the batteries get low, then use the engine and fuel tank.

      Where do you think the electricity comes from?  It comes from power plants, and they mostly burn fossil fuel.  Now do you begin to see where the high mpg number comes from?  If you burn oil in your car, they count that as gallons.  Burn the same oil in a power plant, and it won't be counted.

      All of this is supposed to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, although the column obfuscates the issue by referring to imported "gasoline."  But if you strip away the camouflage, what it comes down to is "Build a lot more power plants, either coal burning or nuclear."  You can make good arguments for either course, but don't fool yourself about what you're advocating.  And you might want to check with Greenpeace and the rest of the environmental movement when you talk about building new coal or nuclear plants.  I think you'll find there's a bit of opposition there.

      Boot also talks of methanol and ethanol.  Well, if you have a car that uses gasoline, you can already use methanol and ethanol.  So why isn't it being offered?  Because the miles per gallon of alcohol fuel are less than you get with gasoline, so you fill up more.  And the price of the fuel is high enough that you pay more per mile when you use it than when you use gasoline.

      In the end, I repeat, we have three alternatives: imported oil, domestic coal and nuclear power.  I favor nukes, you may not.  But until someone makes a technological breakthrough, don't lie to yourself about the options.



  • I kind of figure we will get more nukes, eventually.

    Even so, there are a lot of places we can put geothermal (my "content" statement from Southern California Edision tells me that 11% of my electricity is now coming from geothermal, surprising), wind (now 4% for me, but growing, see below) solar (1% for me, but booming), and finally wave/tidal (0% now, but a big opportunity).

    17% of my power is now nuke-based, similar in size to the geothermal, actually. The bulk (47% is natural gas generated) and 11% is coal.

    We get very little hydroelectric (5%).

    Anyway I promised links on expanding solar, up 70% in 2004 and wind, up 20%.

    FWIW, those seem like short-term opportunities, with fewer NIMBY problems than nuclear.

    (Though it totally surprises me that there are wind-power NIMBYs at all!)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:13 PM  

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