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An electronic microscope image of the rod-like nanoparticles formed by the microwave production method. They perform extremely well in low discharge scenarios, but are being tweaked after disappointing performance in rapid discharge scenarios.  (Source: Arumugam Manthiram, University of Texas at Austin )
Could an affordable electronic car be in the future?

Lithium-ion batteries are in high demand, seeing strong growth in the consumer electronics, power tools, and automotive industry.  Lithium-ion batteries are prized for their outstanding energy-to-weight ratios, their lack of memory effect, and their slower charge loss rate than other battery technologies.

The technology is particularly critical to the budding electric car business.  With such companies as Dyson, GM, and Lightning Car Company using the batteries in their upcoming commercial releases the future of the electric car in the short term is riding on lithium-ion technology. 

Unfortunately, the costs of lithium-ion batteries are currently quite high.  An analyst estimated that the much-anticipated Chevy Volt's battery pack would cost nearly $10,000; about a fourth of the total projected cost.  The pressing demand from a variety of industries has fueled lithium-ion prices to rise even higher.

Fortunately relief is in sight, thanks to a processing breakthrough from University of Texas at Austin.  The researchers found a way to possibly transform the long and complicated baking process involved in one of the more common lithium-ion battery materials into a quick and easy process.

Originally, most lithium-ion batteries used lithium cobalt oxide.  Most of the computer industry still relies on this material; however, the automotive industry has turned to lithium iron phosphate, which is considered more attractive as iron is cheaper than cobalt.  It is also safer than the more fire-prone lithium cobalt oxide, and is capable of being crafted to release charge faster.  A downside is it stores slightly less charge.

Companies have invested big in developing and bringing lithium iron phosphate to the market.  A123 Systems, the Watertown, MA startup that is manufacturing the Chevy Volt's battery, has already commercially offered lithium iron phosphate batteries for power tools.  It has managed to raise $148M USD in investment capital to help fund its efforts.

With current technology, the biggest downside to the lithium iron phosphate is the manufacturing.  Currently, the process takes hours of baking at temperatures in excess of 700 °C.  The extra manpower and effort required due to this has meant that Lithium iron phosphate batteries, which should from a materials perspective be much cheaper than lithium cobalt oxide, are actually more expensive than their competitor.

Led by Professor Arumugam Manthiram, a U of T professor of materials engineering, the researchers at U of T examined how a microwave could be used to speed the cooking process.  The results were dramatic.

The team first mixed conventional materials -- lithium hydroxide, iron acetate, and phosphoric acid -- in a solvent.  They then popped the mixture in the microwave for about five minutes, which heated the mix to about 300 °C. 

The process yielded high performing rod shaped nanoparticles of lithium iron phosphate.  The best nanoparticles were found to be approximately 100 nm long and just 25 nm wide.  The small size allows the ion exchange to be performed more easily.  The finished particles were then covered with an electrically conductive polymer doped with sulfonic acid to improve performance.

The new particles performed extremely well in low-discharge scenarios.  The material achieved a capacity of 166 milliamp hours per gram, amazingly close to the 170 milliamp hours per gram theoretical capacity.  High discharge scenarios were not so friendly to the new material, but Professor Manthiram says that will be fixable.  He says new versions have already shown improvement in this metric.

It is unclear exactly how much will be saved using the new method.  With the short time higher production should be possible, and the lower temperatures will reduce energy demands, both effects that should help to lower the cost of production.  Some are skeptical, though; whether the material will save much at all.  Stanley Whittingham a professor of chemistry, materials science, and engineering at the State University of New York, at Binghamton warns that the savings may be offset by the polymer cost and the cost of the changes necessary to the production.

Professor Manthiram is also exploring other lithium ion materials and has developed two key improvements on other materials.  He is working with an Austin, TX based startup, ActaCell to commercialize his tech.  The startup has licensed some of his technology with the help of the $5.58M USD in startup funds in has raised, but declined to specify which technologies or whether the new lithium iron phosphate production technology had been licensed yet.



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RE: Electric is the future
By puckalicious on 7/30/2008 3:35:38 PM , Rating: -1
Why waste time doing the republican drill dance when you admit all electric is the answer? Wouldn't our money be better spent on renewable energy than giving to the oil companies??

BTW, we could drill our country into a pincushion and it won't make much long-term or short-term difference in the aggregate supply compared to our giant demand. May as well keep importing 70%+ until we get out of oil completely.


RE: Electric is the future
By pauldovi on 7/30/2008 3:51:05 PM , Rating: 2
You know it is funny. Clinton signed the bill that banned drilling in ANWR and off the US coast 10 years ago. His (and other Democrats) arguement was that we wouldn't see an effect from the drilling for 10 years and that we would have solved all our problems by then.

Well, wouldn't you know. The Democrats don't want to drill for oil, again, because we won't see the effect for 10 years.

I don't know about you, but I plan on driving my car to work in 10 years. Lets let people drill, it is a common sense solution.


RE: Electric is the future
By masher2 (blog) on 7/30/2008 4:31:14 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
"His (and other Democrats) arguement was that we wouldn't see an effect from the drilling for 10 years and that we would have solved all our problems by then.

Well, wouldn't you know. The Democrats don't want to drill for oil, again, because we won't see the effect for 10 years"
There are derricks already partially constructed off the Pacific Coast, ones being built when the offshore ban went into effect. Many of those could be pumping within 3 years or less.

In any case, the whole "10 years to results" argument is a red herring. Most of us are planning on being around much longer than 10 years...if we don't solve the problems now, they'll be that much larger a decade from now.


RE: Electric is the future
By 67STANG on 7/30/2008 11:58:49 PM , Rating: 2
Lets not forget that when Clinton vetoed a bill in 1996 that would have allowed oil drilling in ANWR, he said that it would take 10 years to get any kind of impact from the increased oil...

Boy... looking back 12 years later, I'm sure we're all glad he did that. Then again, we all know (now) that Clinton was more of a "instant gratification" kind of guy...


RE: Electric is the future
By JMesserly on 7/31/2008 12:16:40 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
You know it is funny. Clinton signed the bill that banned drilling in ANWR and off the US coast 10 years ago. His (and other Democrats) arguement was that we wouldn't see an effect from the drilling for 10 years and that we would have solved all our problems by then.


?? "Democrats???" What is hilarious about this style of nonsense claim is that not just Clinton, but McCain voted against drilling in ANWR in 1996 and has consistently voted against further offshore drilling. Oilman T. Boone Pickens, arch republican and financier behind the swift boat attacks on Kerry added: "This is one problem we can't drill our way out of."

Here's why this is not a partisan problem:

* The total known oil reserves for the US is 21 billion barrels. (http://www.oe.netl.doe.gov/docs/eads/ead110507.pdf...
* According to the Department of energy, the US consumes 7.5 billion barrels per year. (http://genomicsgtl.energy.gov/biofuels/transportat...
* Do the math. If our entire reserves including ANWR, including everything offshore were drilled and ready to pump today, we would be dry in 3 years.

The true irony here is that some folks actually believe that they have a factual leg to stand on when they advocate drilling as a solution to this issue.

But let's assume for a moment that we had larger reserves deliverable in a relevant timeframe. Even if such a fairy tale came true, what doesn't change is that all sectors of the US economy are vulnerable to a commodity that is vital to America, that America requires in vast quantities, and is increasingly growing rare and in much higher demand as populous countries like China and India rapidly industrialize. Oil is a global commodity and the Chinese with 300 million middle class adding 9 million cars per year are willing to pay very dearly for it.

That's why electricity generation (from whatever source) is a game changer not just for transportation but all major energy requirements. Since Electricity cannot easily be traded globally, a petroleum independent economy would be insulated from the wild energy price swings that have buffeted the world's economies.

The statement that alternative generation capacity requires decades is mistaken. Those laboring under this delusion needs to examine the speed of permitting and construction of solar thermal and photovoltaics. For example, you know that hippie tree huggers loonie group- the US Air Force? Well, they built at Nellis AFB the continent's largest solar farm in 9 months.

The facts illustrate a completely different picture than the partisan flame posters would have folks believe. Both republicans and democrats need to get behind a fact based policy that will get us to energy independence.

Congratulations to the researchers at UT for this promising breakthrough in Li-Ion production efficiency. Most consumers cannot afford a high up front capital cost for electric vehicles if the battery adds 10K to 15K to the price of the car- especially given the currently stressed capital markets.


RE: Electric is the future
By masher2 (blog) on 7/31/2008 12:41:36 AM , Rating: 2
> "What is hilarious about this style of nonsense claim is that not just Clinton, but McCain voted against drilling in ANWR in 1996 "

A vote which opposed the official Republican party position, and is often cited as one of the primary reasons the party base views McCain so dimly.

In any case, your point is moot. Bush Sr. supported an offshore drilling ban . . . but he did so when oil prices were declining, and when we were spending 0.5% of our total GDP on foreign oil, rather than the 2.5% we spend today.

> "Oilman T. Boone Pickens, arch republican [added] "This is one problem we can't drill our way out of."

T. Boone Pickens also has a $10B investment in government-subsidized wind farms. What does he care how high the price of oil goes? The less we drill, the more money he makes.

> "Do the math. If our entire reserves including ANWR, including everything offshore were drilled and ready to pump today, we would be dry in 3 years."

Your math is incorrect. ANWR alone may hold up to 16 billion barrels of oil. We don't know how much "everything offshore" entails -- the areas under the drilling ban haven't been surveyed. They're not included in known US reserves. Some estimates are as high as 10-12B.

That's as much as 28 billion barrels -- enough to cut our dependence on foreign oil imports by 1/3 for 17 years. It's also enough to add $4 trillion dollars to the nation's bottom line, and to keep oil prices from rising even further and causing economic ruin while we explore alternatives.

> "The statement that alternative generation capacity requires decades is mistaken"

If you're smoking a very large hookah perhaps. Other than nuclear, we don't have a viable technology yet to replace our use of fossil fuels. Even assuming that technology materializes in the next few years, replacing every car on the road, and building hundreds of new power plants will take decades. Hell, it took us forty years to just build the interstate road system, and that doesn't involve anything more complicated than pouring cement on the ground.


RE: Electric is the future
By psychmike on 8/3/2008 6:53:38 PM , Rating: 2
I'm leery of optimistic estimates (e.g. "May hold up to 16 billion barrels"). Let's allow exploration and then scientific estimates with confidence intervals.

On its face, your argument that further drilling should occur to keep the economy running while we explore alternatives holds a lot of weight. In reality, however, industry fights change tooth and nail and people don't make significant changes in lifestyle and reductions in consumption unless they have to. If a new supply of oil opens up, I'd expect to see development of the electric car and hybrids shelved until we return to approximately the same point in the cost of gasoline.

My friend is from Germany. She says that everyone recycles there and everyone tries to reduce consumption. If you make more than the allowed quota for garbage, you pay by the bag so people conserve. Consumers press to leave packaging in the stores. The retailers press the manufacturers to use less packaging or use recyclable material. She says that people aren't particularly environmentally conscious, and yet they produce dramatically less waste. Sometimes, top-down ideas that emphasize the common good work a lot better than consumer-based, bottom-up movements that are too susceptible to special interest corporate agendas.

Mike


RE: Electric is the future
By elgueroloco on 7/31/2008 7:06:58 PM , Rating: 3
Your link to our oil reserves didn't work for me. "Page not found."

Btw, 21 billion barrels is a retarded number. Even ANWR is a drop in the bucket compared to our total oil reserves. That number you cited may reflect the oil we are legally allowed to drill, but it does not reflect our total reserves.

According to the USGS, the Piceance Creek Basin of the Green River Formation alone holds 1.07 trillion barrels of crude (http://energy.cr.usgs.gov/other/oil_shale/green_ri... and something like 73 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The entire green river formation is estimated to hold around 1.7-1.8 trillion barrels. Saudi Arabia's total reserves, last I heard, were 250 billion barrels. That means that in one deposit, we have 4 times the oil of all of Saudi Arabia. Also, depending on how well we can get at it, we may be able to recover another 250 billion barrels from a 500 billion barrel deposit in Montana or Minnesota. I believe Daily Tech covered that story.

The US has more oil than any country in the world, except perhaps Russia (who knows how much is hidden in Siberia?).

According to my brother there is a company that, using a new method, can extract the oil from the shale in Green River and get it to market for $10/barrel. I haven't been able to corroborate that, but here is another article that says they can do it for $60/barrel. http://ostseis.anl.gov/guide/oilshale/index.cfm That's about half what we're paying the Arabs.

The main problem is that the oil shale is all on federal lands where it's illegal to drill. The environmentalists, traitors, and other parties in our gov't are preventing us from drilling $60/bbl oil in our own country, as well as lots of natural gas.


RE: Electric is the future
By redavni0 on 8/1/2008 7:08:01 AM , Rating: 1
I don't regard your brother as an authority on this subject, sorry.

Nobody has demonstrated that shale-oil extraction is even a viable process. It's also not illegal, there are multiple companies who have leased land and have active projects working on how to extract the oil. You should try reading that site you linked.

Another problem is that all the current techniques hopelessly pollute the surrounding watershed. Any cities who rely on that watershed would probably be pretty pissed off if their water is poisoned.


RE: Electric is the future
By masher2 (blog) on 8/1/2008 10:43:15 AM , Rating: 2
> "Nobody has demonstrated that shale-oil extraction is even a viable process."

Eh? China has operated a shale-oil extraction plant for several decades; it now processes 17,000 tons per day. Brazil and Estonia also have several plants in operations, and Canada is building a pilot plant as we speak.


RE: Electric is the future
By JMesserly on 8/1/2008 4:39:07 PM , Rating: 2
Interesting response. The Department of Energy does not know what our oil reserves are but you do.

Apologies for the broken link. Many of these gubmint web sites shuffle their pages around daily.

The link below is to a google search that will always deliver you hits on the figure. The silly handwaves above are unsupported and nonsensical, the facts remain. If all our reserves were online today, we would be out in 3 years. So why play a game that you are doomed to lose? This really is not a partisan issue. It is about America's economic security. If you want to score political points on this, that's even more of a fool's game to play while Rome is burning....

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&suggon=0&sa...


RE: Electric is the future
By JustTom on 8/3/2008 1:25:29 PM , Rating: 2
Proven oil reserves is misleading. Proven reserve have been fairly static over the last decade despite all the oil pumped out of the ground.


By PresidentThomasJefferson on 8/1/2008 4:22:34 PM , Rating: 2
I'm for driling for oil everywhere but
According to the gov's official own estimates/studies, offshore drilling will have NO significant effect on oil prices at all in the short-term nor long-term:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/otheranalysis/ongr...

EIAbombshell: Offshore drilling “would not have a significant impact ondomestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030?

McCain has flip-flopped his position on offshore drilling, pandered to the oil companies, and embraced the exact same strategy endorsed by the man McCain is trying so hard to run away from — President Bush. He must have a damn good policy reason:

“Tomorrow I’ll call for lifting the federal moratorium for states that choose to permit exploration,” McCain said. “I think that this and perhaps providing additional incentives for states to permit exploration off their coasts would be very helpful in the short term in resolving our energy crisis.”

Short-term? If only the facts supported that position. If only theman who wants to be the next president bothered to check the analysisby the current president’s own energy analysts.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently did adetailed study of the likely outcome of offshore drilling for their Annual Energy Outlook 2007, “Impacts of Increased Access to Oil and Natural Gas Resources in the Lower 48 Federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).” The sobering conclusion:

The projections in the OCS access case indicate that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.

And the impact of the projected 7% (!) increase in lower-48 oil production that might result in 2030 thanks to opening the OCS is … wait for it …

… any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.

Yes, the man who would be president has sold out his principles togarner support from the oil industry while achieving no benefit to theAmerican gasoline-consuming public whatsoever even a quarter centuryfrom now!


http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/otheranalysis/ongr...

"the projections in the OCS access case indicate that access to the Pacific,Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impacton domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.Leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expectedto start before 2017. Total domestic production of crude oil from 2012through 2030 in the OCS access case is projected to be 1.6 percent higherthan in the reference case, and 3 percent higher in 2030 alone, at 5.6million barrels per day. For the lower 48 OCS, annual crude oil productionin 2030 is projected to be 7 percent higher—2.4 million barrels per dayin the OCS access case compared with 2.2 million barrels per day in thereference case (Figure 20). Because oil prices are determined on the internationalmarket, however, any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to beinsignificant.

Similarly, lower 48 natural gas production is not projected to increasesubstantially by 2030 as a result of increased access to the OCS. Cumulatively,lower 48 natural gas production from 2012 through 2030 is projected tobe 1.8 percent higher in the OCS access case than in the reference case.Production levels in the OCS access case are projected at 19.0 trillioncubic feet in 2030, a 3-percent increase over the reference case projectionof 18.4 trillion cubic feet. However, natural gas production from the lower48 offshore in 2030 is projected to be 18 percent (590 billion cubic feet)higher in the OCS access case (Figure 21). In 2030, the OCS access caseprojects a decrease of $0.13 in the average wellhead price of natural gas(2005 dollars per thousand cubic feet), a decrease of 250 billion cubicfeet in imports of liquefied natural gas, and an increase of 360 billioncubic feet in natural gas consumption relative to the reference case projections.In addition, despite the increase in production from previously restrictedareas after 2012, total natural gas production from the lower 48 OCS isprojected generally to decline after 2020. "


RE: Electric is the future
By LyCannon on 7/30/2008 7:51:16 PM , Rating: 2
It's amazing what happens when a scientific friendly president is replaced with an idiot.

Oh, and an idiot who makes lots of money from oil. Of course electric tech hasn't advanced. I'm not a normal conspiracy theorist...but this one is hard to ignore.


RE: Electric is the future
By dragonbif on 7/30/2008 8:38:11 PM , Rating: 2
Drill for oil? Then do what with it???? Send it over seas to be refined and that saved us what? Not much. We can drill all we want but without the refineries to process that oil it does us no good. The last time an oil refinery was built in the US was 32 years ago. We used to supply the world with refined oil now we are supplied. Do you know the cost of shipping gas? It’s more then oil and you can bet your computer that they are going to start charging more to refine it if we stop buying oil from them. The big problem is it could take years to get the 1000+ permits to build one in the US and each one the company has to go to court and fight off all of the hippies, green smoking and java loving save the planet hypocrites.

About are current president, he has been signing more mass transit bills then any other president in the past 50 years. What we need is a better public transportation system and no not busses. Electric mass transit and cars are the best options.

So you know the majority of the US retirement is in oil so if you have a 401K or other plan you are joining the idiot president as an idiot.


RE: Electric is the future
By Rasterman on 7/31/2008 12:32:40 PM , Rating: 2
Did we suddenly lose the plans to build a refinery? If we needed refineries we would build them, 10 of them, 1000 of them. The problem is oil itself, its wasteful, destructive, and allows too much power to be controlled by few. Everything we are facing with moving away from oil has nothing to do with technology, it has everything to do with politics and corporations.


RE: Electric is the future
By porkpie on 7/30/2008 9:36:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Oh, and an idiot who makes lots of money from oil.
The idiots are those who believe Bush makes money from oil, when his tax records and investments are all matter of public record.


RE: Electric is the future
By 67STANG on 7/31/2008 12:02:52 AM , Rating: 2
Serious, some people call him an idiot so call him a scheming special interest business man... honestly.. can he really be both? Also, haven't we already established he's just a simple idiot?


RE: Electric is the future
By iFX on 7/31/2008 4:46:25 PM , Rating: 2
Assuming that the world's oil supply is going to run out in the next 500 years I think it's a good idea that we (USA) use up everyone else's supply first and leave ours for last. Sure we have to buy it now, but in the long run we would have considerable leverage against an oil starved world.


RE: Electric is the future
By HrilL on 7/31/2008 7:53:12 PM , Rating: 2
I agree completely. I am all for the use theirs first attitude. What will the Saudi’s do when they have no oil money coming it? It’s not like they have anything else to offer. Same goes for most of the oil producing countries. If they don't use their oil money wisely they'll be more really screwed later.


RE: Electric is the future
By pauldovi on 7/30/2008 3:56:31 PM , Rating: 3
To further add to my comment. Why don't we stop regulating energy and let people (like you and I) decide what energy sources we are going to use and where our money is going to. Oil is an amazing energy source. It is safe, easy to transfer, contains a lot of energy per volume and weight, and it is abundant.

Prices act as information. With the government waisting your money by providing tax incentives for what they think is the best (which normally isn't) it cloudes the information that the price tells the consumer resulting in a lot of problems.

Allow the consumer to communicate freely with companies through the price of their products. Lets see who wins, the free market way.


RE: Electric is the future
By Solandri on 7/30/2008 4:57:17 PM , Rating: 5
Energy has low elasticity of demand. "Luxury" energy use (like driving SUVs) follows regular supply/demand expectations. But after supply drops below a certain point, demand stops going down in response - energy use is so essential to our modern technological lifestyle that we need a certain minimum amount of it. When that happens, the price skyrockets.

If you let the market play out, not much will change until oil supplies drop to that point. Suddenly the price will skyrocket, and we'll be stuck with trying to push research into alternatives while the economy is self-destructing around us.

The government incentives and taxes try to spread out that spike over time. By gradually ramping up the price of oil, you get the research into alternatives while the economy is still healthy. That way when the supply of oil drops to that critical point where the price skyrockets, you already have alternatives ready and in place, and the economy doesn't melt.

It's about not having all your eggs in one basket.


RE: Electric is the future
By Ringold on 7/30/2008 6:02:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Suddenly the price will skyrocket, and we'll be stuck with trying to push research into alternatives while the economy is self-destructing around us.


You speak as if this was theoretical. What do you think the $100 to $144 run-up was? Demand destruction took place, and is still occurring (largest reduction is highway miles driven monthly since data started being recorded). The US economy has shown amazing resilience, but it's taken oil on the chin. Private investment in alternative energy, meanwhile, has poured in despite the state of the economy.

quote:
The government incentives and taxes try to spread out that spike over time.


How? Subsidies require taxes, and taxing energy makes it more expensive, thus simply making people more poor in real terms. Government-sponsored demand throttling, is that what you're really proposing? That's the net effect. There's no other way to "smooth" supply and demand other than either crushing it by force (taxes or production ceilings) or propping it up (subsidies). This has worked great with the ethanol sham, eh?

quote:
It's about not having all your eggs in one basket.


In a fantasy where government can foresee both problems and their solutions, that's correct in that the government can force the proper diversification. In the real world, experience should really show us by now that the best case scenario is the free market one proposed by pauldovi; allow the price signal to shine through without interference (no subsidies or special taxes to any energy producing technology), and allow the industry to bring to market energy sources they need, not what we think they need. I'd point out that utility companies are happy to diversify as it is; many would build nuclear plants if only the regulatory red tape wasn't barring their way, and they operate both coal and natural gas plants as it is. Certain wind turbine company CEO's claim, loudly, that they'd be viable without subsidies. Let them prove it, I say.


RE: Electric is the future
By Solandri on 7/30/2008 7:50:37 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
You speak as if this was theoretical. What do you think the $100 to $144 run-up was? Demand destruction took place, and is still occurring (largest reduction is highway miles driven monthly since data started being recorded). The US economy has shown amazing resilience, but it's taken oil on the chin. Private investment in alternative energy, meanwhile, has poured in despite the state of the economy.
Like I said, a certain level of energy use is "luxury" and easy to scale back. But at some point you stop cutting fat and start cutting muscle and bone. People need to get to work. Businesses need a minimal level of energy to manufacture and operate.
quote:
quote:
The government incentives and taxes try to spread out that spike over time.

How? Subsidies require taxes, and taxing energy makes it more expensive, thus simply making people more poor in real terms. Government-sponsored demand throttling, is that what you're really proposing? That's the net effect. There's no other way to "smooth" supply and demand other than either crushing it by force (taxes or production ceilings) or propping it up (subsidies). This has worked great with the ethanol sham, eh?
The first part is correct. Incentives (subsidies) require taxes. The taxes don't necessarily have to come from energy, but if you choose to do so, you can make the energy source you're trying to move away from relatively more expensive. That shifts the ratio of R&D spending more into alternatives than into oil.

I agree that in the long-term steady state applications this sort of market manipulation would be less efficient than simply letting things be. But we're not talking about a static system, we're talking about a dynamic one. The subsidies may end up costing (say) 1% of economic growth over 10 years.

But what happens in that 11th year when oil dries up? If you've been researching alternatives, the economy can shift over and only contracts (say) 10% due to the forced shift to alternatives. But if you're completely reliant on oil, the economy could contract (say) 40% because the alternatives aren't yet ready. The difference could far exceed the small 1% cost you paid over the previous 10 years. Basically, "a stitch in time saves nine."

The run-up in oil prices over the last year is a good example. If we'd ramped up to it, we could've spread the pain over the last 10 years instead of getting hit with it all in just 1 year. Spreading that pain would've cost more back then, but our economy wouldn't be suffering as badly now. And we would've had 10 years of R&D on alternatives, instead of getting caught with our pants down and trying to ramp up R&D now. (I actually think current oil prices are unrealistic, and they're bound to come down. But that's another discussion.)

quote:
In a fantasy where government can foresee both problems and their solutions, that's correct in that the government can force the proper diversification.
Need I point out that it's also a fantasy to believe the government can never foresee problems and their solutions? The government succeeds some of the time. Statistically when something is partially successful, the optimal solution ends up being using it some of the time. e.g. Say you can avoid parking fees by illegally parking on the street, but sometimes the police tickets you. It turns out the optimal solution isn't to always park illegally or never park illegally. The optimal solution is to sometimes park illegally, with the rate determined by the cost of parking vs. tickets and the rate at which you're ticketed.

quote:
In the real world, experience should really show us by now that the best case scenario is the free market one proposed by pauldovi; allow the price signal to shine through without interference (no subsidies or special taxes to any energy producing technology), and allow the industry to bring to market energy sources they need, not what we think they need.
For most situations I'd agree. But the supply/demand interaction with oil isn't based on the total supply of oil present underground. It's based on how much has been pumped out and is available to be used at the moment. The latter is by definition immune to the overall supply available underground, up until the point where it starts to impact the amount that can be pumped out. So the market is not factoring in the eventuality that oil will run out. It needs to be added artificially to the market price if you want the market to respond to it appropriately.


RE: Electric is the future
By oTAL on 8/1/2008 9:27:09 AM , Rating: 2
Amazing post.
Thank you for your insight on this. You have expressed some of my thoughts on this subject in a very clear organized way.
+6 =)


RE: Electric is the future
By oTAL on 8/1/2008 9:29:28 AM , Rating: 3
And by the way, most of the same arguments can be used for some of the agricultural subsidies. A significant "market correction" in agriculture is people starving to death, reducing demand... hardly acceptable.


RE: Electric is the future
By Rasterman on 7/31/2008 12:28:04 PM , Rating: 2
144 runup? are you joking? wait until it hits 300, 1000, or 5000. 144 is not a spike, we haven't seen anything yet...


RE: Electric is the future
By masher2 (blog) on 7/31/2008 12:34:52 PM , Rating: 2
Haven't you heard? Oil is on its way down again. From a high of nearly $147 just a few weeks ago, its been as low as $121 this week...one of the fastest drops on record. Just as Ringold and I both predicted months ago, in fact -- though we did believe oil would top $150 before starting its downward plunge.


RE: Electric is the future
By masher2 (blog) on 7/30/2008 4:28:19 PM , Rating: 2
> "Why waste time [drilling] when you admit all electric is the answer? "

Because a nationwide fleet of electric cars is at least 25 years away...and the extra power plants capable of providing that electricity are even further out.

So we can continue the economic hardship of high oil prices, and continue to send several hundred billion dollars a year overseas for the next three or four decades, or we can do something about it now.

> "we could drill our country into a pincushion and it won't make much long-term or short-term difference "

Eh? Of course it will. ANWR and some additional development in continental coastal regions can easily mean 2.5M bbl/day, cutting a third of our foreign oil imports, and adding trillions of dollars to the nation's coffers. Not to mention the dramatic impact that will have on oil prices.


RE: Electric is the future
By StevoLincolnite on 7/30/2008 6:38:55 PM , Rating: 2
Power shouldn't be an Issue, if we start going all Nuclear.

Heck we have practically got an endless supply of energy Via Geothermal Energy (Which to me is a better idea than Wind or Solar Personally).

The Price of Petrol has already dropped about 45 cents a liter here thanks to the lower prices of the worlds Oil.
(That's $1.69 A Gallon drop I think), so that seems to have eased allot of peoples issues right now in the short term.

The most annoying thing I find about Fuel prices is that, as SOON as the Worlds Oil Prices climb, so does the Price of Petrol at the Pump Instantly, however as soon as the Price Drops, it sometimes takes over a week sometimes for the prices to lower. - I call foul on that one.


RE: Electric is the future
By jbartabas on 7/30/2008 7:11:27 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
So we can continue the economic hardship of high oil prices, and continue to send several hundred billion dollars a year overseas for the next three or four decades, or we can do something about it now .


Because of course we can do something about now ...


RE: Electric is the future
By Doormat on 7/30/2008 8:34:40 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Because a nationwide fleet of electric cars is at least 25 years away...and the extra power plants capable of providing that electricity are even further out.


True and false.

True a nationwide fleet of light duty electric cars is a ways out. I'd venture to say 2035, with 25% in 2020 and 50% in 2027.

However, the current grid can power up to 43% of volt-style vehicles with a 6p-6a recharge window. If we dont even get to 25% by 2020, we still have lots of time to get more of whatever your power source du jour is.

http://www.pnl.gov/energy/eed/etd/pdfs/phev_feasib...

quote:
The results of the analysis indicate that significant portions of the U.S. gasoline-operated vehicle fleet could be fueled with the available electric capacity. For the nation as a whole, about 84% of the energy needed for operating cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs (or a maximum of 73% of the energy of the LDV fleet) could be supported using generating, transmission, and distribution capacity currently available. This would require power providers to use all the available electric generation, base-load and intermediate generation, at full capacity for most hours of the day. If charging periods are to be constrained to a 12-hour period starting at 6 pm and ending at 6 am, the technical potential would be reduced to 43% of the LDV fleet. From a regional perspective, there is some diversity in the technical potential.


RE: Electric is the future
By masher2 (blog) on 7/30/2008 9:43:53 PM , Rating: 2
> "However, the current grid can power up to 43% of volt-style vehicles with a 6p-6a recharge window."

And what happens when it's 6am, your car isn't charged, and you have to be somewhere before evening?

No matter how you slice it, when we start selling electric cars, a certain percentage of people are going to charge during peak hours. That will boost peak consumption...and the current grid can't handle it.

Outlets are unregulated; there is no effective way to force private individuals to charge only during off-peak hours. One can disincentivize it somewhat by boosting rates during peak hours...but given most consumption occurs during that period anyway, that tactic is going to be quite limited in effectiveness.


RE: Electric is the future
By Doormat on 7/31/2008 1:01:24 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
And what happens when it's 6am, your car isn't charged, and you have to be somewhere before evening?

So plug it in! There aren't that many shift workers that work 12-8a. There just arent that many people.

Besides, if you would have read that entire paragraph, you'd have realized that everywhere except for maybe California can have cars charge during the day as well - a 24hr window indicated 72% of EREVs could charge compared to just 43% at night. So its not a big deal to charge during the day.

Besides, we were talking about EREVs , you can take it to the gas station and fill it up if you need to be somewhere so bad. You'll pretty much always need to leave a gallon or two in the tank because the engine will start once a week just to warm up.

If power conservation is needed so bad (in California for example, you'd be surprised about people following suggestions from the power utility. Just this year alone they have been several times where the power companies asked citizens to conserve power - and the response was enough to avoid rolling blackouts. Once situation had it where people cut enough demand to abate 1000MW of power needed (compared to the forecast from CAISO).

Unless you're a night shift worker, you probably wont fill up during the day.

Your post is a bunch of FUD.


RE: Electric is the future
By masher2 (blog) on 7/31/2008 8:49:04 AM , Rating: 2
> "Besides, if you would have read that entire paragraph..."

Did you? Let me quote a relevant piece:

quote:
This would require power providers to use all the available electric generation, base-load and intermediate generation, at full capacity for most hours of the day.
In other words, every single drop of generating capacity we have only gets us less than 3/4 of the way there. Worse, we can't run generators 100% of the time. Even coal and nuclear plants require some maintenance....most plants do well to average a 90% availability factor.

Furthermore, much of our excess generating capacity is gas generators -- cheap to build, but very expensive to run. Those plants are cost-effective now only because they're run rarely. But running them continuously would result in our being charged "peak" power rates 24 hours a day.

Finally, that capacity isn't spread equally over the entire country. Many areas have more than enough, whereas many others have hardly any at all. California -- as you yourself point out -- would experience problems before less than 10% of its fleet was converted to electric.


RE: Electric is the future
By Doormat on 7/31/2008 4:39:57 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
In other words, every single drop of generating capacity we have only gets us less than 3/4 of the way there.


More crap. You're worried about the current generation capacity for a problem (75% of vehicles being PHEVs) we're at least 20 years away from. You think that we wont ever grow our generation capacity between now and then?

Allow me to sum it up the entire issue in the following points.

From 6p-6a, we can charge 43% of the cars we have now if they were PHEVs/EREVs.

It will take us many many years to get to that 43% figure. Even 1M cars/yr wouldn't get us there, if ever because of the replacement rates of the vehicles. We have time to develop the additional power resources for this. Solar, wind, nuke, whatever.

For the first five years the impact of vehicle charging is negligible. Its about the same impact as building more houses, which no one had a problem with during the boom (a 2,200 sqft McMansion would use about 65kWh/day).

We have time to get the grid in shape and educate folks about charging EREVs.

quote:
Those plants are cost-effective now only because they're run rarely.


Rarely my ***. The graph in the article below show that natural gas powers a lot of Texas. Even at night, natural gas is making up 50% of the load, and during the day its higher than that.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/lat...

quote:
Finally, that capacity isn't spread equally over the entire country. Many areas have more than enough, whereas many others have hardly any at all. California -- as you yourself point out -- would experience problems before less than 10% of its fleet was converted to electric.


Yes, that part I cant disagree with. Places like California and the NW would need more power sources. But 10% nationwide is still 25M cars, and that is about 10 years (or more) away. Again, you're worried about production capacity now, assuming we never ever build another power plant in this country, for a situation that is 10+ years away.

We have time to grow generation.


RE: Electric is the future
By masher2 (blog) on 7/31/2008 6:29:34 PM , Rating: 2
> "You're worried about the current generation capacity for a problem (75% of vehicles being PHEVs) we're at least 20 years away from"

The problem starts much, much sooner than when 75% of the nation's fleet becomes electric. For a state like California, the problem begins as soon as more than a few hundred thousand EVs are on the road. That can easily happen within the next 6-7 years. Many areas of California are already struggling to meet demand at peak hours; any increase at all will greatly exacerbate the problem.

> "you're worried about production capacity now...for a situation that is 10+ years away."

First it was 20 years, now its ten? The problem is that power plants take a long time to build, especially nuclear ones...and our other generation options are either too dirty or too costly.

> "Rarely my ***. The graph in the article below show that natural gas powers a lot of Texas. "

A lovely example of cherry picking statistics...however nationally, natural gas powers only 20% of our electric production. In most states, natural gas sees little use outside of peak hours.

A decade ago, it was only about 12%...it's expanding at a prodigious rate because such plants can be brought online quickly, and environmentalists have succesfully blocked new coal and nuclear facilities.

However, the fact remains that natural gas production is substantially more costly than either, and is one of the major reasons for the price increase in peak electricity production.


RE: Electric is the future
By Doormat on 8/1/2008 1:19:10 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The problem starts much, much sooner than when 75% of the nation's fleet becomes electric. For a state like California, the problem begins as soon as more than a few hundred thousand EVs are on the road.


Again, the "problem" isn't one considering that 99% of recharging will be done at night. Go look at http://www.caiso.com and see that even during the summer, they have ~40GW of capacity available and are only using 27.5GW between 12-6a.

1GW of power will recharge roughly 500,000 cars assuming 2kW recharge rate (120V/20A, 4-5 hr to recharge the Volt). There wont even be that many cars on the market until 2018, and thats throughout the US - CA wont get them all. GM is only planning for 10,000 cars the first year. Even if they do manage to get to 60,000 units in year two (I don't think they will) and work up to 100,000/yr, California would be likely to see at most half, or 100,000 cars, or roughly 200MW.

quote:
A lovely example of cherry picking statistics...however nationally, natural gas powers only 20% of our electric production. In most states, natural gas sees little use outside of peak hours.


Maybe Pickens is on to something... we can keep natural gas generation constant with wind picking up the load. In 2007 5GW of rated capacity (which roughly translates to 1.25GW of actual power) was installed. If that rate is kept constant, thats more than enough to accommodate the influx of PHEVs - 625,000 cars/yr.


RE: Electric is the future
By masher2 (blog) on 8/1/2008 10:53:21 AM , Rating: 2
> "...considering that 99% of recharging will be done at night."

A fallacious figure concocted wholly from thin air. More than 1% of the population works at night...and even those people who work during the day will occasionally charge during daylight hours. The idea we can force an entire nation to buy electric cars, and not plug any of them into during the day is just silly.

> "Maybe Pickens is on to something... "

He sure is....vast personal profits from a misguided national energy policy.

> "Even if they do manage to get to 60,000 units in year two..."

Year two is only four years from now. Your original claim was for 20 years out...now you're moving the bar this low?

Yes, we won't have problems in 4 years. In 7 years, though, it's a diferent story for California, and within 2-3 years of that, many other states will follow.


RE: Electric is the future
By Ringold on 7/30/2008 5:11:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Why waste time doing the republican drill dance when you admit all electric is the answer?


Why do I get the feeling that if Obama proposed to take short (drill drill drill), intermediate (new refineries, power plants) and long term (R&D) measures to battle our energy issues it would be hailed as an excellent, intellectual, balanced response?

But, he didn't, because the party line has barred that option. Instead, it happens to be the Republican's who propose both immediate quick-fixes as well as long term solutions. Since it's Republicans though, it's a mere "dance," a cute term that dismisses the argument without any analysis.

Also, masher pointed out new oil production could have a large impact on prices, but didn't state why. Since apparently you can't appreciate a multi-pronged strategy over multiple time frames, I better point out for you that he's referring to oils rather high price elasticity.

To be honest, and maybe this is a function of Southern Democrats being not quite as radical as their coastal and Northern brethren, but even a lot of Dem's here wonder what their comrades problem is.


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