Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Change (for the better) Is NOT Inevitable

Wired” and "Time" magazines have recently published articles about a company, “Better Place,” that intends to partner with auto manufacturers to develop electric cars that could radically change the industry.

These electric cars are based upon existing technology that could be implemented in such a way as to circumvent existing economic constraints. The costs for electric power (for these reasonably priced cars) would be as little as one third that of gasoline. And if implemented with truly clean power generation, could reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2030!

These electric cars would be powered by lithium ion phosphate batteries – which are both energy efficient and safe. (These batteries could also be used to power your home, providing backup for renewable power.)

Discover” magazine has recently published an article about two companies, “Sumitomo” and “VRB Power Systems,” that build giant batteries that can store renewable energy for those occasional times when the wind isn't blowing anywhere.

And “Technology Review” magazine has recently published an article about an MIT scientist who has discovered a new, more efficient way to concentrate sunlight onto smaller, less expensive solar panels. The scientist, Marc Baldo, claims that this technology will make photovoltaic power generation cheaper than coal.

My point is; that by the time the coal-fired and nuclear power plants are built, it is very likely that the technology to safely generate and store electric power will be available cheaper than the dangerous methods we've used for the past century (even with their subsidies). Which is exactly why the coal and nuclear industry are in such a hurry. They realize that this is their last chance to make a few billion more dollars. And this is also their last chance to marginalize renewable power. They know that when renewable energy becomes cheaper than coal and nuclear, it won't really matter – if their generators are already built.

People don't always make the best decisions. And existing industries dread disruptive technologies. We are resistant to change, even if it may save our civilization. For example, a small start-up company, “Avion,” built a practical car that got over 100 miles per gallon – back in the 1980's – and nobody cared. The price of gas had dropped, and you could buy a dependable gas guzzler from Ford or GM. Even GM scuttled their very successful electric car back in the 1990's. If only...

The decisions we make today can have far reaching consequences tomorrow. We can be bold and take responsible action, or we can hesitate and continue to make the same dangerous mistakes... The old industries are betting millions that we'll be too afraid, or just won't care enough to do the right thing. They will try to convince us that economy is more important. But remember, the economy is just a subset of the environment. Eventually the destruction of our environment will result in the destruction of our economy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Saying that we should not build nuclear and coal (preferably clean coal) power plants because other technology MIGHT be available bby the time the plants are ready is like saying that we should stop breathing, because cleaner air might be available with ne3w technology. Absolujte nonsense!
And the VRB batteries can do more than merely store electricity generated by windpower. They can store electricity from just about any source, which can then be used in case of power failure.