Transportation: Future Energy Source(s)

Oil is continually becoming more scarce and more expensive to acquire, because of this finding a substitute is very important.  Unfortunately, there has yet to be a feasible substitute for oil, so we are faced with a future that will probably involve several different alternative fuels.  T. Boone Pickens recently released a new video outlining his plan, and mentions that he sees a world with multiple energy types for transportation.  This made me think and as I thought about this it began to make more and more sense.

We currently have no energy source that is adequate to replace oil, so we will have to use many different energy sources for particular uses.  This means, we could end up seeing electric vehicles for in-city driving or local commuting and hydrogen, fossil fuel, and/or alternative fuel vehicles for a multitude of uses.  Each energy type will play a role in our future, depending on geological location and vehicle usage.  Vehicles that are used for heavy loads may operate on diesel or natural gas, and vehicles that are used for every-day city driving may be electric, hybrids or alternative fuel powered.  Using multiple energy sources will complicate the consumers purchasing decisions, because consumers will need to choose vehicles based on energy type and predicted usage.

Our energy future must rely on sources of energy other than oil, and because of this we will see several different energy sources emerge.  Consumers will need to have a basic understanding of energy.  Energy will play a MAJOR role in the majority of our future decisions. In addition to alternative fuels, I also believe we will see an increase of rail-based transportation being used.  Rail transportation is generally energy efficient and relatively convenient.  Using energy without thought will become a thing of the past.

Here are my thoughts, i look forward to seeing some of your thoughts/comments below.

3 thoughts on “Transportation: Future Energy Source(s)

  1. Dandyone

    “we could end up seeing electric vehicles…” … except that to ramp up production in any meaningful way runs headlong into the problem of lithium production. We don’t have enough of it and mining will become ever more energy intensive and costly. Then there are the twin problems with our grid system(s). In order to get any significant number of cars charging from the grid will require a significant investment in the grids themselves, which is costly, materials intensive, and energy intensive. And besides, most of the electricity powering these grids is coming from coal and NG anyway, so we’ll simply be accelerating the production peaks for those two sources, and all the while we’ll be pouring far more GHGs into the atmosphere per mile driven.

    “hydrogen” … What? Hydrogen? Here’s an acronym for you: EROEI. EROEI + 1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics means that hydrogen is dead in the water. It will not ramp up. Neither will biofuels.

    We need to face the simple facts. As John Michael Greer put it, “trying to make lukewarm sunlight do the same things as the blazing heat of burning coal was not the way to solve the problem.” (substitute oil for coal, and you’ll get the drift).

    “we will see several different energy sources emerge” … really? First of all, oil is better described as a fuel. The original energy source was the sun, and then we get some pressure from subduction and the heat from the pressure… I highly doubt we are going to see any more energy sources emerge. We have geothermal, direct solar, indirect solar (wind, hydro, biofuel, oil, coal, ng, etc.), nuclear, and tidal. That’s it (I think, though I am tired and I might have missed one). Other energy sources are not likely to emerge.

    Here’s a thought which is perhaps so obvious you’ve missed it. Conservation is the only alternative to energy consumption. We use something on the order of 15 times more energy than we collect in real time. The only way to address this deficit is through conservation. We can choose voluntary conservation, or we can refuse voluntary conservation. It matters not, conservation is coming one way or the other. So rather than trying to figure out what is going to power our next generation of cars, why don’t we spend our time wisely figuring out how to reorganize our society so that we don’t live 30 miles from work, eat fruit grown 1,500 miles from our home, and purchase massive quantities of cheap plastic trinkets made by slave labor in a distant land?

    Our transportation solutions are to be found in moving less, not more efficiently.

    Reply
    1. Zach Hudson Post author

      @Dandyone
      I agree with you that electric vehicles are mostly a pipe dream due to battery production issues, grid capabilities and power generation, as you mention. (See my article about electric cars here to see my thoughts). Also, I fully agree that hydrogen makes almost no sense, in most cases. There are situations though where using electric cars or a hydrogen vehicle could be plausible. For example, in the United States West there is an abundance of desert. It is plausible that you could create hydrogen from solar panels using electrolysis. Would this be large scale, probably not, but that is why I mentioned the fact that location could play a role in the types of energy sources used. (Hydrogen is actually more of a energy transportation medium, but once created can also be used as a energy source for certain devices).

      Oil, is a fuel, but oil is an energy source. It is a liquid that we are able to extract energy from like when we burn it. When I am referring to seeing several different energy sources emerge I am referring to existing energy sources. I do not anticipate any new energy sources being discovered, but I do see where we will use a mixture of all these energy sources. This means that instead of relying for oil for such a LARGE portion of our energy needs we will see other sources like: solar, wind, geothermal, etc….

      I totally agree with your thoughts on conservation and I have discussed similar thoughts on a previous post here. Transportation solution will be found by moving less, yes, but it can also be found with efficiencies.

      PS….I have a good understanding of EROEI and the laws of thermodynamics, I hope to have an article discussing these in the future. I appreciate your comments and look forward to discussing with you more in the future.

      Reply
  2. Scott Peterson

    Hubbert of “Peak Oil” fame in his famous paper advocated nuclear power as a long term replacement for oil and coal. In fact, the actual title of the paper is “Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels“. In this paper he predicted exponential growth in nuclear power production. In fact, his 1956 paper is as much an advocacy for nuclear power as it is an analysis of oil production projections.

    This begs the question “If Hubbert was a prophet of doom regarding oil; why not a prophet of energy salvation regarding nuclear power?”

    Put another way, Hubbert is lionized for a prediction that turned out to be correct so far regarding oil; while his prediction that was wrong concerning nuclear power is conveniently ignored.

    Reply

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