Morgan Liddick: Plug-in cars still use energy
I see a firm in Boulder is offering hybrid owners a plug-in system for their cars. For a few thousand dollars, you too can be free from OPEC. No more pollution! You can have your car and go green too! And, since you wont be buying $4 or $5 gas, youll save money! Its sad, the state of our analytical abilities. Plug-in cars are no solution to the problems we face with private transport, but they are a symptom of our willingness to grasp at straws. Consider: from where will the extra energy come to charge all these plug-in vehicles, if this craze catches on? No, OPEC and Exxon wont exploit you any more. Xcel will.Its not that I oppose innovative solutions to the energy crisis we face. Were going to have to be flexible and very, very clever in future, because $150-dollar-a-barrel petroleum is only the beginning. Sooner rather than later, its effects will be seen in other energy sectors, and will quickly spread to the rest of the economy. Were going to have to invent and innovate like crazy to avoid a catastrophic reduction in our standard of living. And were going to have to get serious about tradeoffs, which is why I have concerns about our success.Senator Phil Graham was right: Americans are spoiled. We have a titanic sense of entitlement, which is why rising energy prices immediately trigger a search for the sociopaths who deny us our God-given right to drive vehicles heavier than a World War II landing craft and bigger than a Sherman tank, or to live in houses larger than the average boutique hotel in Holland. In general, we have no sense that our choices have consequences.We are enraged when we forbid the production of certain types of energy coal-fired or nuclear electricity, for example and find that the price of the commodity subsequently increases. It offends our sensibilities when we refuse to exploit our own abundant sources of energy, only to be faced with rising costs for what we import from others. We are indignant when presented a choice between economic well-being and aesthetics. Like petulant children, we insist on having it all, just because we want it. Like petulant children, we may just get a spanking for our truculence.Take plug-in cars. Fueling them will demand much more electricity generation and infrastructure. Even Al Gore admits that. Lets begin with the former. How are we to generate the thousands of new megawatts a growing fleet of such cars will demand? Coal? Please. One might warm the Earth. Nuclear, the preferred fuel of Satan? Natural gas? If you think the price of oil has increased dramatically, check your gas bill. Hydropower? And destroy salmon runs and the snail darter, you enviro-desecrator? OK, windmills. Solar.Both of the latter will require enormous spending on technology, construction, storage facilities (what, you thought the wind blew 24/7?) and the like. Expect views to be marred. For a preview, check out pictures of Altamont Pass outside of Livermore, Calif. There will be disturbance of wildlife, including endangered species. And there will be squealing about the whole thing, do not doubt.Then there are the infrastructure requirements. Switching to electric cars would involve major rewiring of the countrys creaky electrical grid. When heavy air conditioner use in Southern California requires rotating brownouts to avoid a cascade failure that would take down electricity all along the Left Coast and out to Kansas, do we really have the ability to add tens, let alone hundreds of thousands of heavy-duty battery chargers? Electric cars are going to demand many, many more wires as well as new production. All this is going to cost a bundle of money in taxes and rate hikes. It doesnt matter whether we built wind and solar facilities, with tax subsidies to make them competitive; or natural gas generators; or new nuclear power plants. It makes no difference if the new transmission lines are installed above-ground (cheaper) or buried. Youre footing the bill. Expect all of our lives to be touched by this transition, and not in a good way. As we have to fork over more money for every kind of energy and as our taxes rise dramatically to cover the cost of government involvement in this new energy economy, our standard of living is going to decline. And we will be inclined to punish those who have prudently practiced self-restraint and saved for decades, and now have money to invest in these emerging industries, so expect the process to be rife with class envy and conflict, stirred up by the very politicians who brought us to these straits. Its going to be ugly.But its going to happen, so prepare for the whining. Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. E-mail him at email@example.com. Also, comment on this column at http://www.summitdaily.com.
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