Thursday, December 27, 2007

35 MPG?

Just before Christmas 2007, President Bush signed a new energy bill whose major claim was to set fuel mileage requirements to--35 miles per gallon--by 2020. Can you believe it? This is like President Kennedy saying the US will put a man in orbit by the end of the century! (He actually called for putting a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s). Dah! With crude oil near $100 a barrel and with what former Fed Chair Greenspan called a war for oil going on in the Middle East, you would think the administration would act with a little more urgency. Instead the President was more keen on promoting the importance of nuclear energy.

The President is partially right--the key is electricity--not fuel. Fuel is limited-electricity is not. The President seems to want to ensure that the established powers - oil companies mainly find a way to adapt to the limitations of their industries and find new ways to enslave the American public to their profit structure. Wrong! Just as the President never got the "internets" he doesn't comprehend the Internet model for the transformation of America's energetic infrastructure.

Electricity is fleeting-it doesn't store well and it travels inefficiently. But it can be produced everywhere and through different means. Solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric are just some of various means of generating electricity. But lets stick with cars - our most ravenous from of petrochemical consumption. The move to the hybrid is obviously the transition we need to make. But most people don't realize that regenerative braking - the technology that turns a car's brakes into an electricity generator - is a very promising option that actually makes driving your car in a city more gas efficient! The more you brake, the more electricity you produce! Test cars are getting 50 mpg in the country and 70 mpg in the city.

So lets move to hybrids and the electric car. But let the gas produce most of the electricity for now until the nation's electrical grid makes the transition to a more diffused production system that will empower both America's urban and rural areas - instead of dictatorships abroad.

The 810-page energy bill does include nearly $100 million for battery research. Not exactly the Manhattan Project, but the government needs its money for its billion-dollar a day war for oil. Still battery technology is absolutely critical. Just look at my Sony Walkman (Yes, I don't have an iPod) I get about 30 hours of music for each charge! I took it to Hawaii for 10 days and didn't even have to recharge it once.

What seems to be most important to the administration is to replace our current addictions with new ones. Instead of transforming the electrical grid into an internet-like space for e-commerce (energy commerce,)the government seems to want to ensure that established powers are able resuscitate their profit pipelines but configuring the energy infrastructure to their own interests. To avoid this, the government must call for 100 mpg vehicles by 2015. This will shake up the system, introduce "creative destruction" and let the government more the energy markets out of their current state of market failure and help develop a nation-wide system of true energy markets.