Related to the soon-to-be-revised index-card manifesto, I have a question, raised by some of the feedback I got:

My assumption is that sooner or later all personal vehicles — and eventually all vehicles, period — will be powered solely with electricity from renewable sources: wind, solar, hydrokinetic, biothermal.

Here’s my basic reasoning: Humanity’s energy reserves (fossil fuels) are finite. We need to start living within the earth’s solar budget. Consider the following three alternatives (and pardon my utter lack of technical sophistication):

  • Biotic material absorbs energy from the soil and the sun, dies, sinks into the soil, and comes under enormous heat and pressure. Eventually all that energy becomes highly concentrated into oil, coal, etc. — amazingly useful. Problem is, there’s a finite amount, and we don’t have centuries to wait around for the earth to make more.
  • Biotic material absorbs energy from the soil and sun. It is then ground up, so that the sugar can be separated out (or the starch made into sugar) and fed to microbes, which produce ethanol. It is hotly disputed whether this process is properly deemed renewable, since, depending on the source, it can take more energy to grow and process the crops than results in the ethanol. Regardless, it’s a circuitous route from sun to vehicle.
  • The details differ, but with solar, wind, hydrokinetic, and biothermal technology, the sun’s energy — either direct sunlight, wind/water currents, or heat — is converted directly into electricity.

Which is sustainable over the long term?

Oil’s not really an option for much longer. And biofuels just seem inefficient — why let the sun’s energy take such a byzantine route to our vehicles when we could just convert it directly to electricity? Obviously biofuels may be necessary in the interim, while the technology and infrastructure get sorted out, but in the long term it seems obvious to me that we’re going to settle on the most direct, efficient way of powering our transportation.

Someone tell me what’s wrong with this reasoning.

Secondarily, someone tell me whether this is too much to dump on the average U.S. citizen in an index-card manifesto.