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January 25, 2006



A U.S. coalition led by electric utilities,

This is a case of "careful what you wish for". While I welcome plug-in hybrids and cutting back imports of foreign oil - most electric utilities are coal-based and I certainly don't welcome any more coal plants unless all the carbon is sequestered.

It appears electric utilities are salivating over a whole new market for their product that will funnel investment into everything from more nuke plants to LNG terminals.

Renewables only please and I don't approve of nukes because they drain large amounts of scarce capital from wind, solar and other renewables which have minimial fuel and environmental costs and whose engineering and management challenges are surmountable.

Jim from The Energy Blog

The coalition is not led by utilities, it has beeen organized by cities who want to reduce pollution and the cost of running their fleets of vehicles. Of course the utilities welcome more income and they represent a much more powerful lobbying group than do the cities, so why not enlist their help.

Hybrids and especially plug-in hybrids are the best bet for reducing oil consumption in the next 15 years. Because plug-in vehicles are intended to be recharged overnight when demand for electricity is the lowest they will not in themselves cause a need for more power plants. (more power plants will be required on a world wide basis because of population growth and an increased standard of living) The energy to propel vehicles has to come from somewhere and the most likely place is electricity.

The problem is that oil is becoming very expensive, and supplies soon will not be able to keep up with demand. I am all for renewables, but they do not replace oil, and they only can be brought on line so fast. Wind and solar generate electricity which does not provide liquid fuel for vehicles. Biofuels are the only renewable that can directly replace liquid fuel.

Ethanol is being brought on line quite rapidly. Unfortunately the technology currently being used cannot supply enough fuel, because it would require too much land to grow the corn. Cellulosic ethanol can supply a much greater amount, but it is only now emerging as a viable technology and will take another 3-5 years before it is deployed in any meaningful way.

As a final thought, powering vehicles with electricity is a more efficient than powering them with hydrogen fuel cells. More power plants would be required to produce the hydrogen than will be required to produce the electricity for plug-in hybrids. The limitation on plug-ins and all electric vehicles has been battery technology and in the last two years battery technology has been improved enough so that within a few years batteries that are suitable for these vehicles will be available in sufficient quantities that the need for fuel cell vehicles will have been eliminated. Fuel cells still may play an important part of producing our electricity and heating/cooling our buildings.


Thanks for the explanation, Jim. Too many people may be holding out for the best of all possible worlds, thus missing out on substantial improvements that could be made.

The perfect is the enemy of the good.


The theory here is that most usage is 40 miles or less per day and therefore can be fueled by electrical energy stored in batteries in phev's. Fine. Where does the electricity come from? I hope not from coal or ng or nukes for that matter. And yes I understand the liquid fuel component. I will cross my fingers and hope that this all means America's 20mbpd plus habit dissipates over time.

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Batteries/Hybrid Vehicles