First, Thomas P.M. Barnett notes how higher gas prices have put Toyota in the catbird seat for now with their Toyota Prius hybrid. The next step is the plug-in hybrid market, and even beyond that, hydrogen fuel cell cars:
I know, I know. Amory Lovins is a nut.Complementing the above is the news that, with our current energy set-up, mass acceptance of plug-in hybrids would mean a huge increase in water usage by existing power plants:
But I see a lot of good coming from these high prices. The Middle East needed a big resource transfer to handle that 100 million young heading toward non-existent jobs. WE were going to pay that money one way or the other. Hybrids beat bullets and bombs.
If 25% of the nation’s fleet converted to plug-in vehicles it would require an additional 1 billion gallons of water for electricity generation. For comparison, that’s almost half the total urban water used by the state of California in one year.My take: once again we see that corn-based ethanol is a big dead end. Second, plug-in hybrids are great but we need a change in our energy generation so as not to engender a whole new set of water scarcity issues.
But no one, including the study authors, is saying that plug-in hybrids should be blacklisted. It just adds an important consideration for water-stressed areas that have plans for a grid-based automotive fleet. It also highlights the importance of using sustainable (wind, solar) sources of electricity for electric vehicles.
And as far as the alternatives go: PM pointed out that growing a bushel of corn requires 2200 gallons of water, which only makes 2.7 gallons of ethanol. I would take a fleet of plug-ins over a fleet of Flex-Fuel vehicles any day.
Long term, somehow the growing globalizing Core is going to have to come up with the low-carbon emissions energy to produce either mass quantities of electricity for the plug-ins, or the sort that can enable relatively low-cost, low-energy production of mass quantities of hydrogen for fuel-cell transportation. Probably both, with the latter being the long-term solution.
I share Tom Barnett's optimism and only hope that we take care to integrate the Middle East into the Core as we engage in this massive transformation.