Friday, February 24, 2006

A Practical Idea For America

Two energy problems we have right now: our cars our consuming too much oil (everybody knows that), and our power plants are incredibly inefficient (that one ain't so well known). I won't explain the former, but the problem with the power plants is that you cannot store electricity. You use it or lose it. Because powering up and down most powerplants (NG is the exception) often takes hours if not days, powerplants thus have to produce enough electricity to sate demand when it is at its highest, its "peak", leading to enormous wastsed over-production.

The solution? Plug in hybrids. This new technology combines hybrids with electric batteries. By plugging in the car every night, fuel economy is increased enormously, often times upwards of 100 mpg (and the technology is still in its opening stages). The key proposal here is to create a device, should be fairly straightforward, that can both put energy into our cars and take it back out again, according to market conditions. The device can then "buy" energy, filling up your battery, when demand is low, sopping up all that wasted energy. Then, when demand is high, it can sell it, probably at a marginal profit, giving the grid extra capacity and allowing powerplants to produce less electricity. The device could even allow for turning on the car's engine to create electricity, were the demand high enough. Basically our cars, which already have atleast twice (I've heard up to five times) the power capacity of our nation's power plants and lay idle for most of the day anyway, can act like a huge national battery, even power plant, mediating supply and demand.

Of course, plug-in hybrids are still in an embryonic state, but the technology's there, the methods are there, and it's not ridiculously expensive. Already, without any sizable research commitment or economies of scale to back it up, there are companies that will upgrade hybrids to plug in hybrids for approx. 3,000$. Were the government to require that all new garages include the plug in devices and heavily subsidize plug-in hybrids (the best method is always through gas taxes), this solution could become the reality for the United States within ten years. Were a majority of cars to become plug-ins, we could realistically cut our oil consumption by 5 mbd. Furthermore, by reducing the strain on power plants, we could cut our consumption of natural gas (a fuel that shares many of oils problems) by shutting down NG powe plants, although the main point is the system would be more efficient.

Oil demand reduction and electricity production reduction. Sounds like a plan to me. If only there were some politicians with enough spine to make such a thing come true. Perhaps California...


Anonymous said...

this is so radical and dumb that i find it pointless to argue.

William said...

First, this is not radical. It has no political affiliation, rather it's a common-sense economic-engineering system that could make things more efficient.

Second, fragments of the idea have the support of mainstream newspapers, GM, and legitimate companies who have devoted themselves to creating said technologies.

Thusfar, the only radical and dumb part of this idea is your response to it. The idea that one would not argue an idea and instead offhandedly dismiss it is directly anti-ethical to the very ideals upon which we have built our successful nation. Good job.