5 probing energy questions related to automobiles
First it was going to be hybrid vehicles. Then our government was all about hydrogen. That topic even made it into a state of the union address. Next it was electric cars or plug in hybrids. Part of the reason we keep changing our minds in the US about what we should do regarding cars stems from uneducated politicians trying to make policy decisions without the basic understanding of engineering required to grasp the concept. Do politicians really understand the best way to remove a gall bladder because they went to Harvard and Yale and studied history? Why then do they think their understanding of energy and engineering is up to the task of setting policy for 400 million Americans. Hubris. Ask any sitting politician if the room gets hotter or cooler if you open the refrigerator door for a while and he or she will get it wrong. It is that kind of inability to grasp the basics that causes much of the trouble. Here are 5 easy questions with complex answers to stir debate. If you thought the room got colder you might want to pay attention.
1) Do solar panel makers run their factories with solar panels?
The reason this question is important is because if solar panel factories are not being run completely on solar power then the idea that electric cars make sense is ridiculous. Follow the logic; If the solar panel companies cannot make solar panels strictly with solar energy, then it is obvious they are not generating more energy than they consume. Thus we would be better off without them in areas that already have electrical service. A small black box into which 10 units of energy go, and then returns 9 units is not a power source. Powering cars with coal or uranium is not sensible.
2) Do electric car owners heat their homes with electricity?
Here in the Northeast many areas do not have natural gas available. The only viable heating source for working people is oil. It is well known that heating one’s home with electricity is incredibly expensive. Why? Because with electric heat you are basically making a fire, boiling water, driving a turbine, sending electrons many miles (maybe hundreds of miles) through wires, during which the electricity is reduced by resistance, then you put big resistors in your home to get the heat back you made hundreds of miles away. Making the fire in your basement and then using the hot water or steam instantly is much more efficient and cost effective. The fact remains however, that most homeowners who use oil heat burn more oil in the basement than they do in their cars. So why not convert to electric heat if fossil fuels are the problem and forget about the electric cars? We already have electrical service to our homes. Space heaters are cheap compared to lithium ion battery packs.
3) Why do towns place electric car chargers at town hall?
Imagine the trips you have made to town hall. Why did you go? Did you go to one far from you? Not likely. Most people go to their own town hall, which is by definition – in their town. So why do we install electric car charging stations in front of town halls or city halls? Couldn’t one walk? Would the electric car battery meter even budge off full if you drove to the center of town and back? The only places electric car charging stations make any sense at all is in places far from home that one has to get to. They are decorations in front of town hall.
4) Is the US a net petroleum exporter?
Don’t take my word for it, I am biased. Type the question into your favorite search engine and hit search. As you will find, all the major news outlets and even those that are favorites of oil-bashers and politicians who yell about “Energy dependence on rogue nations…” have reported that the US is now a net exporter of petroleum products. Not an importer - An exporter. That means we ship out more than we take in. Think it over.
5) Why is gasoline considered expensive?
Can a gallon of milk move 3 tons of anything 20 miles? A gallon of gasoline can. Can 2 bottles of Italian soda water in a green bottle possibly cost more to make and sell than a gallon of gas that starts as 1.5 gallons of crude oil at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico? Do people who smoke cigarettes consider gasoline expensive? Even a pack and a half habit costs about $10.00 per day. That is $70.00 per week. Few people spend more than that on gas. Yet, 30% of American families have at least one smoker at home. Gas is dirt cheap, yet we crow about it like it costs as much as our cable bill. Let’s be truthful about what is, and is not, costly.
The reason the room gets hot when you open the fridge door and leave it open is that if you put energy into a space (via the fridge’s power cord) there is no way physics allows that space to get anything but hotter. Simple.
Picture courtesy of Ford Media.