Culture, Economics, Technology

Watts The Solution?

The future of the American energy crisis is clean electricity. With clean electricity we can power our current interstate infrastructure, keep our car culture, and continue to enjoy our transportation independence. We can move goods around the country, and actually do it cheaper than ever before.

Ethanol, clean coal, and hydrogen are expensive distractions that oil, coal, and agriculture interests have somehow pushed on us via public relations campaigns and government lobbyists. I see right through it, and although each will have it’s day in the sun, the ultimate solution is already being determined by our marketplace.

Why is electricity the solution that the market will prefer? Several reasons:

  1. Electricity is domestic: Watts must be generated nearby at your local energy station, which can be just about anything, from collective community solar grids, to nuclear reactors. Domestic energy means energy independence from the rest of the world, more jobs at home, and greater control.

  2. Electricity can be converted from the most wide range of energy sources: solar, wind, nuclear, gas, coal, water, and the list goes on. Electric cars that use fossil fuels as their original energy source (at the power plant) actually have double the ‘well to wheel’ efficiency of popular hybrid cars, while generating one-third of the carbon dioxide.
  3. Our current infrastructure already supports electricity: we have the infrastructure we need to deliver the goods. No need to add hydrogen tanks and pipelines.

  4. The transition will be seamless – cars and trucks are already coming to market featuring electric/gas hybrid technology. Even the Nashville MTA has hybrid busses on the way. Current hybrids don’t require charging, but new “plugin-hybrids” are on the way from Honda and Toyota that allow owners to charge them at home, and run on pure electricity for shorter trips, and switch to a gas moter only on longer excursions.

  5. The transition has already begun

The innovations in battery technology, solar technology, and beyond will give the US a new industry to sink her teeth into, and provide our people a long overdue upgrade in the transportation we use. The American marketplace has been toying with electric cars since the 19th century. It is only now that the reality of our limited oil supply has hit home that we are getting wise to the advantages.

However, there are some significant obstacles to overcome. Pundits of other alternatives criticize electric transport based on the following myths:

  1. Your trading one form of pollution for another: tailpipe emissions for increased smokestack emission to generate the electricity.False: You will be hearing a new buzz-phrase in the next year: well to wheel efficiency. What this means is the amount of energy or pollution from the original energy source (coal power plant, hydroelectric dam, solar/wind farm) to the car your driving. All electric cars beat gas cars and hybrids two to one or better in both efficiency and carbon emissions. As our country aggressively invests in clean sources, this argument will be moot.
  2. Our Grid Can’t Handle the Load: plugin hybrid demand will require as many as 160 new power plants.True & False: Our current terribly outdated electrical infrastructure is already overtaxed as American households have demanded more electricity in the past 30 years. During peak hours, or business hours, if everyone charged their Prius at the same time, the grid would go dark. However, if regulations required charging overnight our current grid could handle it.Investment in our power infrastructure is long overdue, and regardless of who wins the next election, you can be sure that we will see Washington creating incentives and programs to promote clean energy and expand our electrical capacity. Bring back Nuclear power.
  3. Electric cars use too much water: huh? Maybe it’s just a function of living in Tennessee, but last time I checked, non-potable water was practically free.