Plug-in hybrids are the only alternative fuel vehicles that can provide genuine energy independence from steadily rising oil prices and brutal price spikes.
I have agreed to participate as a guest blogger for ScienceBlogs in a three-month project on the next generation of energy ideas. My first post is “Electric Vehicles: The Next Generation.” Longtime readers of this blog or my books know that I have been an advocate of plug-ins for a number of years.
The key point of this piece is that “Only one alternative fuel can significantly lower the annual fuel bill of U.S. consumers while at the same time significantly reducing greenhouse-gas emissions — electricity.”
Biofuels — whether from crops or cellulosic material — are likely to be sold at the market price for gasoline. That’s because it is extremely difficult to see how they could be produced in the kind of nearly unlimited quality you would need for them to dominate the liquid transportation fuels market for the foreseeable future. The same is true for offshore, Alaskan, or unconventional oil.
The price of electricity, however, is not linked to the price of oil.
Gasoline prices have gone up some 200 percent in recent years, whereas electricity prices have only gone up about one-tenth as much. Gasoline prices are likely to rise 50 percent to 100 percent over the next decade. Again, electricity prices might rise another 10 percent or 20 percent. We simply have too many electricity sources for prices to rise much even if we adopt a strong carbon cap. These include rapidly expanding low carbon technologies like wind, solar photovoltaics, and concentrated solar thermal electric, which may actually see price declines as they gain market share.
Thus, only plug-in hybrids (and ultimately pure electric cars) offer permanent, practical, low-polluting freedom from the misery of peak oil.
[Note: Some have criticized the Shell sponsorship of Scienceblogs. But Shell exerts no editorial control, so I’ll let others lose sleep over this. Personally, while I once admired Shell, especially their strategic planning about global warming and renewable energy, their pursuit of tar sands and, even worse, oil shale, makes clear they are simply another short-term-profit-maximizing long-term-climate-destroying oil company.]