Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Christmas Post

In idle moments I often wonder why some people are so resistant to change. These very same types of people throw up objections to moving off of oil (while at the same time offering no solutions).

Since there is a lot of resistance (I'd say whining) to moving off of oil, we hear things like the following "I don't want to drive an electric car because I can't refuel it everywhere and I'd like to (2X a year!) drive to the coast which is too far" (ignoring completely the fact that SOME people will have to change their transportation methods if peak oil is real)


"I don't want to pay tax dollars towards subsidizing wind power or solar power because I'm a free marketeer" (but you support spending 2 trillion dollars defending oil supplies in the mid-east - which is *allegedly* not "subsidies".

So imagine this:

Imagine that we have no choice but to move a million vehicles per year in the national fleet off of oil.

Will those disenfranchised drivers prefer to

a. Take the bus
b. Drive a limited range electric vehicle.

Personally I know which I'd choose.

On another note, I often muse about what the next decade or two is going to look like and I also wonder how to make some money out of it. Some of the signs of change are already here but no clear winners have yet emerged.
2011-2020 is going to be interesting I think. So let me take a stab at guessing what could happen (just guesses):

I think we could see some big winners in the following
1. Electric vehicles powertrain and associated parts suppliers.
2. Japanese, US and European companies who develop alternative non-rare-earth magnet substitute technology
3. Continued breakthroughs in battery technology which bring 400 mile range to european sized passenger cars - some of these technologies will be composed of cheap materials but enhanced by nanotechnology materials
4. Continued breakthroughs in enhanced oil extraction technologies which bolster production - flattening any decline
5. Continued cost reductions in solar technology - better than parity in some of the sunnier regions
6. Reduction in format of nuclear reactors for applications such as freight shipping
7. Standardization in recharging facilities for electric vehicles - will the EU pick one and standardize on it or will be see a betamat vs VHS fight?
8. Heavy duty big rig truck manufacturers will go for natural gas conversions in a big way
9. Continued incremental increases in crop yields
10. Standardization of battery swap technology similar to Project Better Place's idea

Following are wild cards I think we could see:
1. Algal oil up to a sustainable level to be able to produce a couple million barrels per day
2. Methane hydrates - the japanese may figure out how to unlock the massive deposits they have off their coast in a cost effective way
3. Perennial cereal crops & Salt water crops
4. Cheap energy efficient desalinization
5. Seaweed to oil
6. Industrial volumes of biochar for increased crop yield with the by-product of carbon capture
7. Plastics from renewable sources such as biomass on an industrial scale
8. Plastics from natural gas augmented by nuclear power or renewables
9. Greatly enhanced efficiency to some form of fischer tropf process to go from shale gas to liquids using nuclear or renewables
10. Large numbers of junker vehicles backfitted to natural gas for those who can't afford electric vehicles

Place your investment bets ladies and gentlemen...

Merry Christmas everyone!


Barba Rija said...

Merry Christmas, DB.

About subsidies, I agree, but 2 trillion dollars isn't that much of a "subsidy".

This because of two things.

First, america "polices" the entirety of the oil market. Even if they only need to secure 40-50% (middle east), we must remind ourselves that the market is fungible. The price of oil depends upon such protection. If there was not this kind of protection, perhaps oil was already in its 150-200$. So america's actions are vital to the whole oil market.

Second, 2 trillion dollars being spent in a decade (more or less), implies that, 2 trillion dollars divided by 300 billion barrels is less than 10 bucks per barrel.

This tells us that this subsidy is real and should be accounted for, but it is somewhat irrelevant, and it pays for itself, for the alternative could be not to pay any subsidy but pay 150+ $ per barrel.

DB said...

Hi Barba,

I think we're basically on the same page. I'm not opposing the subsidy per se, just pointing out the hypocrisy of those who say the oil industry isn't subsidized. Like you say, if we *didn't* subsidize the price of oil would likely be in the $150-$200 per barrel range.

Now if that were the case, what would the competitiveness of renewables be then?