Sunday, October 30, 2005
Below is a list of the possible energy alternatives for cars, and what the various pros and cons are related to them. It's a very rough list so feel free to comment upon it and I will adjust and edit as the week goes by:
1. Battery powered. Pros: power comes from power plants not necessarily gasoline. Reduces importation of foreign oil. Technology is available to creat this. Cons: Batteries are polluting when disposed of, cause cancer through electromagnetic radiation, not necessarily less polluting if power source comes from coal powered plants. Batteries do not work well for larger vehicles such as trucks and SUVs. Infrastructure does not exist to deliver this fuel. Rebuttal: Most people do not really need trucks and SUVs. Also power plants can all in theory be powered by wind, sun, water etc.
2. Biodiesel, ethanol, organic (i.e. plant-based) fuels: Pros: Less polluting. Comes from a renewable energy source. Can power all sizes of vehicles. Cons: Some evidence that more energy must be put into its creation than comes out of its creation. Not as energy efficient as gasoline.
3. Hydrogen. Pros: Very little pollution, however fuel can come from polluting power plants. Can work for all size vehicles. Cons: Technology is not ready yet, and may not be for decades to come. Infrastructure does not exist to deliver this fuel. Dangerous and explosive fuel. Tanks are unable to hold hydrogen for long periods of time.
4. Compressed Natural Gas. Pros: Barely pollutes. In greater abundance than gasoline. Does less damage to engines because it is a cleaner substance. Cons: May still be imported from dictatorships in the Middle East. Natural gas reserves are finite and may peak soon. Not as energy efficient as gasoline. More explosive fuel. Lack of infrastructure to deliver fuel. Tanks cannot hold the gas for as long as petroleum because of small size of particles, allowing for leaking.
So any replacement we look for has immense problems. But there are immense problems to the fuel we use now. Gasoline is finite, causes cancer, pollutes bodies of water, creates noise pollution, creates air pollution, is explosive, is poisonous, and causes war. Any time a society is so dependent on a substance, be it gold, water, air anything, if it becomes rare in any way, there will be conflict. But regardless of the problems it brings, the benefits, or the perceived benefits, make our continued garnering of the substance all the more important.
It is unfortunate that many people, some of whom are auto executives (read Bob Lutz), are incapable of seeing fuel as integral to the study of the car. You cannot separate the vehicle from what powers it. An automotive executive should have at the very least a superficial understanding of all the materials that go into the making and running of a car. In fact this used to be a prerequisite for being an automotive executive. Henry Ford literally built and designed the first Fords. Many auto companies built all the parts for their own cars and designed them, instead of shipping out the requirements to outside companies.
Cars are such complex devices nowadays that it is probably impossible to have a mastery of all the subjects and sciences required to build a car. But there are industries that are a part of the making of an automobile that are more important than others, and deserve a closer look. It probably is more important to have a semblence of understanding of the oil industry as an auto executive than say the Blue tooth industry, or the DVD touch screen mapping IT industry. After all, virtually ALL cars run on gasoline, only a few have such gadgets.