Alternative energy is all well and good

by wfgodbold

But solar panels, clean coal, geothermal, and nuclear power won’t fuel my car.  It won’t fuel tractors that farmers use, or diesel train engines or trucks, or planes.  So while those are certainly exploitable energy sources for the electric grid, developing them won’t do much to reduce our dependency on oil.

Ethanol isn’t the answer; adding it to gasoline mixes reduce the efficiency of the engine, making it take more gas to go the same distance (in standard engines; perhaps in the new E85 and flex fuel cars it’s different).  The other downside to using ethanol as a fuel source is that it interlinks the food and energy markets; the price of corn will scale with the price of fuel.

Solar power won’t give us plastic as a byproduct, nor will it produce natural gas.  Electric cars aren’t cost effective yet; they may be someday, but not until battery technology has improved to the point where you can go more than ~150 miles on a charge, and then recharge in the time it would take to pump 15 gallons of gas.

Hydrogen fuel cells would be ideal; who knows when they’ll be ready for mass production, or if they’ll be safe for use.  One exploding hydrogen tank and fuel cell powered cars will be the new Pinto.

We are stuck with oil as our fuel source for now and the foreseeable future; unless someone comes up with a Heinleinesque solution, that’s not going to change.

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