Nested comments broken. UPDATE: Fixed

It appears that our webhost is having some problems with the Scoop installation. All comments that are not on the top level are not displaying. Hopefully our webhost is on the case. In the meantime, be sure to post your comments on the top level (i.e., just use the 'Post a comment' button,don't use the 'Reply to this' link).

As soon as it's fixed, I'll post an update. Thanks for your patience.

Update [2006-2-5 0:46:24 by Admin]: The problem's been fixed. Feel free to use this as an open thread.

Good to know it is a technical hitch and not
sabotage. I had wondered where recent postings
had disappeared to.

Hopefully they will be recovered and displayed,
so we won't have to try remember what we wrote.

FYI and OT:  Blogger is back up.
Nicholas Kristof has a column in today's NYT discussing plug-in hybrids. He says they cost $3,000 more than regular hybrids, which themselves cost $3,000 more than regular cars.

You do save a lot of gasoline costs with this, especially if you don't drive more than 30 miles per day. But, I don't know. With the extra $6,000 up-front cost, plus the extra electricity bills when you charge up your car, I'm not sure this is a winner. Kristof claims that by charging your car during the off-peak overnight hours your costs fall to the equivalent of 75 cents a gallon. But what would happen if everyone did that?

I'm sure we've discussed plug-in hybrids here at TOD already. Can anybody point to pages here or elsewhere discussing the effect that mass use of the plug-in would have on the electricity grid?

I looked at that in You find you get what you need.  A bit dated and doesn't follow through on all the implications (efficiency of cars is a bit high, doesn't incorporate grid or battery losses, etc.) but it gives a halfway-decent picture.

The average US electric consumption in 2004 was about 450 GW, and the daily peaks are considerably more than the wee-hours minimae.  If we made mass use of plug-ins and boosted average consumption by 100 GW with charging scheduled to level the load curve, we'd replace peaking plants with more efficient base-load plants and get better utilization out of the transmission infrastructure.

I will need a new vehicle in about a year, and I plan to buy a plug-in hybrid.  Why?  The main reason is that I remember the gas lines in the 70's, and we had a reminder of that during the gas panic here in Atlanta during Katrina.  

I predict that the coming increases in the volatility of gas prices will lead to times when it will be difficult to get gas, period!  With a plug-in hybrid, I will be able to get to work, etc no matter what the gas price and volatility.  I expect that this will be more important the as time goes on...

Because here in Georgia, most of our power is produced by coal and nuclear, I am also expecting the difference between the price of power and gas to grow, and grow and grow.  In the short term, I don't expect that I will save any money.  But, because we can burn just about anything to produce electricity, I am predicting that electricity will be the cheapest replacement for liquid fuels.  In addition, if electric (partially and fully) cars can be used to help with the peak production of electricity here in Georgia, we might be able to idle a few more natural gas fired peaking plants.  Which would help the reserve situation and therefore help with the natural gas price volatility.

Speaking of batteries, I searched this blog and didn't see anything about Firefly Energy's new lead-acid batteries.  I'm a chemical engineer who has spent a fair amount of time with lead-acid batteries and I can testify that this company has made some extremely important advances.  Not only do they have the technology, but also they have the backing of Caterpillar with some great management, $$$, and marketing channels to make a HUGE splash on the hybrid market!  I am excited!!!  Will this be the solution to all of our problems - Heck No!  But at this point, every little bit will help.

Check it out!

Yeap but the problem is that we are still to see plug-ins commercially available. AFAIK there is a whole subculture of converting Prius-es to plug-in hybrids; but

  1. this doesn't give you a fully functional plug-in hybrid - not enough batterries
  2. the total cost will be too north of my budget line

So for now I'm left waiting for such a baby to appear on the market. I think we can do something useful here at TOD if we start writing to car manufacturers that plug-ins have and will have their customers. Counterintuitively, these guys seem to represent the most conservative industry on Earth. They needed 5 years to pickup hybrids (yet on a limited scale), now they seem to be needing 5 more just to put a little more batteries and a power outlet.
Do you have a link which gets past their flash-disabled-browsers-need-not-apply intro screen?
This is what happens when the web designers try to get too cute...

It appears that every page is a java creation of the home page - long story short - I couldn't get past the intro page....

Do you have a backup copy of IE for such things?

I don't have IE at all.  Not only don't I have a license for it, I won't let it (or the rest of Windoze) in the house.

I was at the library and took a look at their page there.  The contact page is the only non-animated page I could find; I told them that their choice of style made them unfindable with Google (I tried) and asked them if they had a non-Flash version for people who don't want it.  We'll see what happens.

As for the energy difference, let me put it this way: In the climate I live in it is very hot, and one's air conditioner is the largest power draw in the house. However, the AC takes about 5kw when on, and over the course of a summer day the whole house may use 80kwhr. My car uses over 120kw when accelerating. So, in one hour my car can use more power than my whole house does in a day. Now one begins to see the scale of the problem (anyone want to build nuke plants?).
Furthermore, I just want to point out that "plug in" hybrids shouldn't have to "plug in". I've already advocated using inductive charging several times before, I hope Toyota impliments it like GM did. (I know there's and eff. loss, but i doubt it's much, and it's worth it for the convience, though not if it adds another $3000 to the car).
-Stop the Iran war-
How much time do you spend accelerating?

(BOTE:  Not much.  If you use 120 kW [160 HP] for an hour, burning fuel at 0.5 lbm/hp-hr, you'd burn 80 pounds of fuel.  That's about 13 gallons.  If you were averaging 60 MPH, you'd be getting less than 5 MPG.)

Furthermore, I just want to point out that "plug in" hybrids shouldn't have to "plug in". I've already advocated using inductive charging several times before, I hope Toyota impliments it like GM did.

But you do have to plug in the EV1 - you take the charging paddle and plug it into a socket on the car.  What I see as the real advantage to induction connectors is that there are no exposed metal contacts to keep clean.  The EV1 design envisioned outdoor charging stations added to existing lots, so high weather resistance was very important.

You proposed the 'charging mat', right?  (Which would be placed on garage floor and transfer energy to parked car with no user intervention.)  AFAIK, large air gaps mean low efficiency or low power density, or both.

Not to say that the charging process shouldn't be made as simple as is feasible, but I think the EV1 connector was pretty good: very low maintenance, quick and easy to use correctly, hard to use incorrectly.

Personally I prefer metal contact connectors, but I think most people would rather pay more for the more convenient option.  I make a WAG that induction charging would be at most $250 extra verus metal contact connectors.

I think the best hybrid car is a diesel mommy van in the garage with an electric battery powered econobox commuter car at the curb. The combination costs twice as much as a van or an econobox, but it gives unrivaled range/capacity and high gas milage.
Take the van if you need capacity or range, take the battery powered econobox if you want high milage. Since you use each of them half as much they will both last twice as long, and you don't have to compromise on design.
I've used the two-vehicle solution for years, one small commuter and one larger but rarely used.  Alas some real-world issues spoil it.  For one, I have to pay double in insurance premiums, and since I don't drive a lot, I pay more in insurance than fuel.  (And presumably the insurance execs use the proceeds to burn some fuel somewhere.)  Also, here in Vermont, with salt on the roads all winter, cars rust out after some years, so I generally end up throwing a perfectly good engine away (with its embedded energy content).  These are just two examples how our society is set up in a way that makes it hard to do the right thing.  E.g., if we all stayed home when it snows, and skipped the salt, we'd have a happier life and our cars will last longer.  But no, the motoring religion says: we must be able to drive to Wal-Mart at any time!  And we must keep the roads "safe" for that.  Never mind that despite the salt there are LOTS of accidents during snowstorms.  Anyway, the main reason I keep two cars is so I can drive the small one most of the time and set a good example.  (That's when I don't ride one of my several bicycles.   Loved the quote I saw on a TOD page recently: "Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." —H. G. Wells, 1904)
My wife and I have adopted this approach.  We recently  purchased a 1991 GM Metro (40 mpg/city). We still own a 1995 Ford Ranger p/u, but now rarely drive it.  Both of us walk to work, so our mileage is quite low.  And it is quite shocking to drive any distance in the traffic prevalent in our area (Sacramento, California).  People are so stressed on the roads and many drive like complete maniacs.
I have thought a lot about this sort of thing, since if I were honest, I would shut myself down pretty soon since I can't twist my neck much anymore and am getting almost as slow as the nuts I have to dodge when I go into town in my little dirt road.  What seems to me is the right solution is the car club, in which everybody has access to any car they might want at any time via cell phone, so a central computer knows everything necessary, and if I want to go , I just hit the button and bingo! a car of the right kind (econobug, bus, rusty pickup, muscle rocket, etc) shows up and takes me, or lets me take it.

This way, I pay just for what I use, and somebody else more competent is doing the nightdriving, fixing the flat battery, the headlight, the skizzy computer and all that.   I had a student who did a great job simulating this, and what he showed was an amazing saving in everything- money, parking space, total time devoted to transport, home space utilization, and the works. Average time delay was 7 minutes.  So? You call ahead of need.

By the way, I tried to sell this idea locally (many times) and the people who like it the most are young mothers and Quakers, and the ones who call me a commie trying to rob them of their hash and sex are young men.

An old story, but interesting:

The Slowing Pace of Progress

It supports what Tainter and others have found.  Technology really is slowing down.  

This is why I don't think techonology will save us.  Already, it's taking more and more investment to produce fewer and fewer results.  In the post-carbon age, we won't be able to invest at current levels, let alone keep increasing our investment.  

The slowdown in technology is merely temporary --although it may last a few hundred years.

Slowdown is linked to collapse of civilization and not to the inability of the human mind to come up with new stuff.

The collapse of the Roman Empire led to the Dark Ages in which hardly anything new was invented ... and yet, here and there over the centuries, people in collapsed Europe still came up with strange gadgets ... like the Guttenberg printing press. See Wiki on Medieval Technology here

For a broader Wiki look at the History of Technology, peek into it over here

We're more clever than ever, but the "technology" field, just an oil field, has become more expensive to develop and less productive. Technology, just like our political and economic systems, is increasingly entropic.  
I don't think the slowdown in technology is temporary.  I think we are witnessing "peak technology" - the most advanced science and technology the human race will ever produce.

This doesn't mean that humans will run out of ideas.  On the contrary, I'm sure we will continue to be as ingenious as ever.  But it will be in a much simpler, lower tech way.  Complexity has an energy cost, and we will not be able to afford to pay it once the cheap oil is gone.  

Your assumption is that new technology must be "complex".

It does not have to be.

How complex is the Hiemlich manuever? (to remove lodged food from choking patient). When was it invented? Why not hundreds of years earlier?

How complex are Post-Its? (use of a lousy glue to adhere one paper to the next)

There are many ideas that are simple and yet we don't see them until some clever person comes up with the idea. New technology does not have to be "complex".

IMHO, nanotechnology will revolutionize the energy consumptions of advanced civilizations. Hopefully there are people out there trying to carry the torch forward for Richard Smalley (recently deceased Rice U professor and avocate of nanotech for generating useful energy).

A fundamental issue is that the political/economic/technology go-cart we've been riding since the start of the Industrial Age is powered by a linear process which maximizes profit and power while generating huge amounts of waste, pollution, and excluding "uneconomic" actors like the poor, elderly, the sick, and now the middle class.  Replacing the resource inputs without changing the process will be a waste of time, and I fear that the process is now out of control.  In a stunning turnabout, while we've been literally burning nature, nature is about to burn us - with global warming.

I think many here are in agreement that there is something deeply wrong with a rationalization system that says:

  1. "Maximizing profits" is everything,
  2. Greed is Good,
  3. The bottom line is the bottom line,
  4. etc., etc.

All these implanted propaganda lines need to be questioned boldly and openly rather than meekly accepted as dogma.

It is time to start turning the tables around and to begin to "marginalize" those who claim to be the spokespersons for the "non-negotiable majority".

They are not. They are just lying liars with leering lips who try to silence everyone in the room with their cruel glare.

Nonnegotiable is how demagogues speak.  Nonnegotiable is how those who disrespect the US Constitution and utter profanity in the Capital Rotunda speak.

From this day forward:

  1. "The bottom line" IS NOT Itself. It is just circular babble uttered by someone who fails to prove he "accounted" for "everything".
  2. Maximizing profits is not everything. It is the narrow viewpoint of those who worship tunnel vision.
  3. Greed is not good. It's just self-centered greed.
Many notions of progress are entirely false.
Covering a productive piece of land with McMansions
is not progress, it is simply achievement. One
of the real reasons why ther will be no gennuine
progress is the dysfuntional measure of progress
applied in most countries i.e. GDP.  This just
measures the flow of money, whether the cause of
the money flow was constructive or destructive.
Building more prisons and having more people
employed as security guards counts as progress
under the present system.

We should be using GPI, the Genuine Progress
Index, so that positive actions are attributed
positive values and negative actions are
attributed negative values. When most western
societies real standard of living is assessed
using GPI, we find that the peak was reached
around 1975, and in real terms we have been
going backwards ever since; that is
particulalry true when we look at the
environment. Here is a very recent example:

Vancouver sets wet record

05 Feb 2006

After a month of continuous rainy weather, Vancouver has set a national record.

It rained for 29 out of 31 January days in Vancouver, which set a record for the most rainy days in a month, according to Environment Canada.

The previous record of 27 days of rain in a month was set in both 1953 and 1964.

"In terms of number of days with rain, it was the wettest, not only January, but any month of any year," Environment Canada meteorologist David Jones told the Vancouver Sun.

On Tuesday, Environment Canada reported that 286.3 millimetres of rain had fallen in January, breaking the previous January high of 281.8 millimetres in 1992.

Residents in Vancouver saw just 35.5 hours of sunshine this January, compared to the usual monthly average of 60 hours.

Heavy rainfall has meant extra work for restoration specialists and plumbers as properties have become flooded across the lower mainland.

© Adfero Ltd

We can be certain that the GPI will not be
adopted because vested interests are making too
much money out of GDP to allow even open
discussion of GPI, let alone its introduction.
Therefore, our overall situation must, by
definition, get worse.

Our descendents will not only inherit a world
that is grossly over-populated and short on
energy supplies, but the environment will be
increasingly hostile to human existence and
human aspirations (as they are now). As
Lovelock put it, Gaia is taking her revenge.

Sadly, knowledge of this does not have much
impact on the folly that 'development is the
answer'. Nor does it seem to make much dent
in the delusion that 'technology will save us',
neither of which has any supporting evidence.

The word 'development' triggers many
pre-assumptions in most people's brains, just
as the the word 'progress' does. Unfortunately,
many of the pre-assumptions are false.

When people talk about plugging hybrid cars into
the grid, where do they think the electricity
is going to come from in the future? Where do
they think the carbon dioxide that results from
fossil fuel combustion is going to end up?
Neither natural gas nor coal is sustainable in
the long term, so such discussions simply
revolve around maintaining the benefits of
living in a highly technological society in the
short term, without looking at the long term

We are making "progress". We are slowly getting closer to the edge of the ledge. That's progress in my book (Title: "The Great Leap Forward")     ;-)
Here's something you might find interesting. A local investment firm, West Coast Asset Management, founded by the president of Kinkos, is really getting into Peak Oil. Last month they published this overview of the situation:

Their new article was published today in the local paper:

"After the Peak: Apocalypse or Opportunity?"

They discuss in general terms how things may change after an oil production peak, and which economic sectors would make the best investments. Mostly it's pretty obvious - alternative energy, railroads (the most energy efficient form of internal transportation), possibly even "defense" (i.e. war) contractors. To protect against the possibility that peak predictions don't come true, they are taking positions in companies like Wrigley, and Johnson & Johnson, which they see as relatively immune to energy price changes.

It's interesting to see a relatively mainstream asset management company which seems to be tying its predictions so closely to the Peak Oil scenario (they even quote Kunstler extensively). You can subscribe to their newsletter on their web site if you want to track their thinking on this issue.