March 18, 2013 – Vol.18 No. 1

IT'S TIME FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News

Sorry Mr. President, I don't like everything about your plan. (Though I like some things.)

I like the fact that you want to create an Energy Security Trust with a goal shifting our vehicles off of oil for good. That's a pretty radical idea, but one that's needed.

I like that the Trust would be funded by revenues paid to the government by private fossil energy companies developing on taxpayer-owned land.

I like that no new taxpayer money (or debt) is needed. The $200 million a year for ten years probably isn't quite enough, but then again even researchers should learn how to work on a budget.

I like that you recognize the need for breakthrough technologies and cutting edge discoveries in the car and truck sector.

I like the new jobs angle, as well as the domestic energy sources inclusion.

But that's where it ends.

Your plan assumes that only natural gas, biofuels, batteries or fuel cells are the answer, the possible replacement technologies for the oil-fed internal combustion engine. That's too limiting. There might be better answers.

The hydrogen fuel cell thing was tried by the previous administration and was a bust.

Cleaner biofuels? That, too, was tried and remember that biofuels are, at best, only carbon neutral. If part of your plan is to cut back on carbon emissions, biofuels help, but don't make nearly the dent as vehicles with zero emissions.

Advanced batteries? What kind? Better words would be "advanced energy storage."

Lighter, cheaper, stronger tanks for natural gas vehicles? Natural gas may be good for trucks and fleet vehicles, but I don't think everyday car drivers would adapt well. Further, the fueling infrastructure would be costly and you really don't want dangerous high pressure tanks strapped to the underside everyday vehicles.

What I'm saying is that what you propose locks in certain technologies on the assumption that that's all that's out there, that nothing else will work to energize the nation's vehicles. I fear that you've been sealed into the Washington, DC box; that only ideas that emanate from inside the Beltway will work. Our recent history shows nation's capital makes too many mistakes to be relied upon for good ideas. It's a big country. Heck it's a big world. There may be much better ideas on how to transform the automotive world hiding in the most unexpected places. You have start looking for them. Search the Internet. Reach out to shade-tree inventors. You might even find better ideas for cars in back issues of Popular Mechanics.

Have some goals in your idea search. Zero out carbon emissions from cars. Use only cheap domestic resources to build both the cars and energize them. Make sure vehicles, and all the materials in them, are fully recyclable and verify that the recycling processes are in place, not some dream that needs future research. Look for vehicle ideas that the driving public will seamlessly adapt to. Refueling in minutes not hours. Range per fueling in hundreds of miles not dozens. Look for low initial vehicle cost, not cost that so-called experts think will drop over time. Look for vehicle prices that match that of conventional cars and trucks in their category or vehicle type. And foremost look for vehicle ideas that people might actually want to buy. What would be the compelling reasons to buy these vehicles?

"... shift our vehicles off oil for good." " Cutting edge discoveries." "Breakthrough technologies" all words that indicate that the whole automotive transportation system, from cradle-to-grave, in the full life cycle, needs a rethink from the ground up. Your plan, which spends money on research for technologies already tried, isn't that kind of rethink.

It's time to look for something completely different.

 

The White House infographic on the Energy Security Trust

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